Office of the Ombudsman has given National Oil Company of Malawi (Nocma) deputy chief executive officer Helen Buluma seven days to respond to allegations that the institution is draining K3.9 million monthly on her security detail.
In a letter Reference OMB-LL-2021-357, dated November 22, 2021 titled ‘Investigations Into Allegations of Abuse of Office and Acts of Maladministration by Nocma deputy CEO, Ombudsman Grace Malera instructs Buluma to respond to the allegations by December 2 2021.
The action by the Ombudsman follows a complaint from Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) that Buluma and her residence are guarded by armed police officers and private bodyguards outside her entitlement.
According to a copy of Nocma employees’ Conditions of Service, the State oil firm’s CEO and the deputy are entitled to a day security guard and two night security guards plus an alarm or rapid response system.
Reads the Ombudsman’s letter, in part: “ In particular, you are to respond to the issues relating to allegations in relation to abuse of office by yourself as deputy chief executive officer in getting security detail not in line with your entitlements, provide information and supporting documents relating to your entitlement where the issue of security for your person and your residence is concerned,
“lf, indeed, you are getting security details as per the allegations in the complaint, explain the authority under which the same benefit is being accorded to you and, if, indeed, you ore getting security details as per the allegations, provide information as to how such services are being paid for—whether the services are being charged to Nocma and why?”
Buluma could not be reached on her mobile phone and she also did not respond to our questionnaire.
Last month, Weekend Nation broke the story on how the State-owned company hired services from the Malawi Police Service (MPS) that include four police officers with two guns to guard Buluma’s residence and a gun-totting close protection officer (CPO) to guard her daily.
A CPO or personal bodyguard is reserved for senior officials such as judges, Cabinet ministers and their deputies, electoral commissioners, Speaker of the National Assembly and Leader of Opposition, according to police sources.
In an interview this week, HRDC national chairperson Gift Trapence said the human rights body expects a speedy probe into the matter.
Said Trapence: “As HRDC, we already furnished the office of the Ombudsman with the evidence, and we, therefore, expect that this matter will be concluded very quickly.”
According to payment vouchers we have seen, Nocma’s monthly police security expenses for March totalled K7.8 million out of which K3.9 million was for Buluma security alone.
Weekend Nation investigations, however, established that the Nocma board of directors neither discussed nor approved the beefing up of Buluma’s security.
However, upon learning of our inquiry into the matter, Buluma reached out to us, claiming that her life is in danger, being an Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) witness and whistle-blower in the fuel procurements saga.
But National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera said there is no record at any police station or unit that Buluma lodged a complaint that she was being threatened.
According to a police source, had Buluma lodged a complaint with police, that she was being threatened, the police would have been offering the protection free-of-charge.