The Ombudman’s Office and the Office of the Attorney General (AG) are embroiled in a tug of war over the controversial loan procurement of tractors from India and their subsequent resale to mostly influential politicians and government officials.
The High Court has since granted the AG a stay on a report by the Ombudsman into the transactions of the tractors and ordered a judicial review into the matter.
A 48-paged report by the Ombudsman Martha Chizuma Mwangonde specifically called for prosecution of the officials who were members of internal procurement committee (IPC) and “presided over the sale of the farm machinery and benefitted from the sale should be prosecuted in accordance with the Procurement Act,” plus an apology by three principal secretaries responsible for the ministries involved.
Kaphale refused on Tuesday to comment on the court process, referring Nation on Sunday to the court files.
In a judicial review application at the High Court in Lilongwe, Civil Case Number 152/2016, the Attorney General is challenging report’s key recommendations on behalf of principal secretaries for ministries of Finance and Agriculture, and the National Assembly.
According to grounds for the judicial review cited in the court documents signed by State advocate Apoche Itimu, the AG says the Ombudsman—who is a respondent to the case— call for officials to apologise to the people of Malawi was unreasonable as there has been no independent assessment to verify claims that government procured archaic tractors from India.
The AG further faults the Ombudsman for dictating the course of action on how it conducts its legislative business after she recommended that Parliament exercise caution when dealing with loan authorisation bills after observing that Parliament’s own Standing Orders were being abused by government to fast track poorly scrutinised laws.
In an interview, Mwangonde said she stands by her report and will challenge the application in court.
“I believe we acted within the law and we will defend the report. This was the first systematic investigative report we have conducted as Ombudsman so this is the first time we have seen a challenge on such a report by government through a judicial review,” said Mwangonde. n