- Agency still operating without top management
- Nocma board “sleeping on the job”—Minister
Minister of Energy Newton Kambala has faulted the National Oil Company of Malawi (Nocma) Board for failing to expeditiously resolve the staffing gaps at the company.
The minister has since directed that in the absence of a credible management at Nocma, the current round of fuel supply tender for 314 870 metric tonnes be cancelled.
In an interview from South Africa on Thursday, Kambala accused the Nocma board of “sleeping on the job” for not resolving issues for which the organisation’s chief executive officer (CEO) Gift Dulla, finance director and procurement director were suspended for 14 days.
Nocma board suspended Dulla and the organisation’s finance director on October 29 last year pending investigations and a disciplinary hearing into allegations of financial and procurement anomalies at the entity.
Nocma board chairperson Zangazanga Chikhosi, who is also Secretary to President and Cabinet (SPC), did not respond to our calls and texts messages the whole of this week for comment on the issues at Nocma.
Minister of Information Gospel Kazako in a brief response to our questionnaire on the situation at Nocma only said: “All will be well at Nocma.”
But Kambala, who played down the threat of shortage of fuel supply in the country following the cancellation of the tender, argued that Nocma as a strategic company ought to have done better, saying the status quo at the entity defeats the spirit of corporate governance.
According to the minister, the current round of tendering of all products, including petroleum supply of 314 870 metric tonnes remains cancelled, adding that any attempt to proceed with the process in the absence of a structural management is erroneous.
Nocma also later suspended its procurement officer Caroline Mkwala. To date, the suspensions have not been resolved.
After Dulla’s suspension Nocma board appointed deputy CEO Hellen Buluma, as acting CEO. But the board removed her after President Lazarus Chakwera, who described Buluma as “a party operative”, instructed the board to look into matters surrounding her hiring.
Said Kambala: “How can Nocma do an evaluation of the bids without key people such as director of finance, senior procurement officer and the CEO. As a political head of the Ministry of Energy, I will not keep watching while things are going wrong at Nocma. I will have to do something.”
He observed that government is paying the suspended officers all their salaries and benefits for doing no work and urged Nocma board to make a decision whether to put the people back into offices or relieve them of their duties.
Kambala played down fears of fuel supply shortage in the country following the cancellation of the tender, saying according to an analysis by Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera), the cancellation of the tender will not affect supply in the coming months.
Said the Minister: “Two weeks ago I engaged Mera board for their prospects with the situation at Nocma and the analysis they submitted shows that Mera is on top of things and knows exactly what to do. Malawians should not panic, fuel supply will not be affected by any delays by Nocma to issue new contracts to new fuel suppliers.”
In a separate interview Buluma explained that it takes at least five months from the process of advertising the tender to awarding of contracts, adding that the process is on track.
She said a transition plan is already in place and therefore there is no need for the public to panic.
When asked at what stage the process is, the deputy CEO said the Public Procurement and Disposal Act (PPDA) does not allow the company to discuss the tendering process until it is finalised.
Buluma also could not comment on whether Nocma is continuing with the tender disregarding the directives by Minister of Energy to halt the process, saying it was an internal matter.
Nocma was established in 2010 under the Companies Act of 1984 to be the manager of the Strategic Fuel Reserves.