In what could be described as a parting shot, Martha Chizuma released two investigation reports on abuse and irregular recruitment at Blantyre Water Board (BWB) and Tobacco Commission (TC) on her last day as public protector.
The investigation at the financially struggling BWB focused on allegations of acts of bias, nepotism, unfair treatment, unfair dismissals, tribalism, irregularities in the recruitment of some staff and abuse of power by former chief executive officer (CEO) Engineer Daniel Chaweza.
At TC, on the other hand, the Office of the Ombudsman probed allegations of illegal hiring of staff and secondment of one of its employees, Juliana Chidumu Somba to State House and later the Malawi High Commission in India.
In the BWB investigation, Chizuma, who yesterday started her new job as director general of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), found that several internal transfers of staff were irregular. The office, thus, ordered reinstatement of several officers to their previous positions.
The Ombudsman also faulted the transfer of former BWB director of finance Henry Bakuwa to Malawi Gaming Board as irregular.
However, Chizuma said she could not direct that Bakuwa return to BWB as he testified that it was a toxic environment; hence, would not want to give it a second go. She has since advised Bakuwa to personally regularise his recruitment at the Gaming Board.
In the report, the Ombudsman noted that most decisions were unilaterally made by Chaweza as both the board of directors and management could not produce minutes of purported board or management meetings that made resolutions to transfer or demote several staff.
At TC, the Ombudsman found that the institution’s former deputy CEO Levi Phelani was irregularly appointed by former president Peter Mutharika contrary to the Constitution and the Tobacco Industry Act. She also observed that “the position of the DCEO does not exist on the establishment of the Commission and is not necessary to the commission”.
The investigation also found that one Emily Banda Egolet was appointed as TC director of human resources and administration without interviews or the involvement of the board.
The Ombudsman also ordered the termination of employment contracts of junior officers who were recruited without attending interviews at the TC. However, a majority of the senior officials had already been fired by the new TC board.
In another development, the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA) has reported to the Office of the Ombudsman that its former board chairperson Madalitso M’meta, whom the Ombudsman in March ordered to reimburse allowances and other benefits extended to him as board chairperson, had opted to pay back the accrued amounts.
M’meta was faulted in an earlier investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman in relation to the procurement of services of South African lawyers by Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) for the May 21 2019 Presidential Election Appeal Case.
The Ombudsman had ordered M’meta to pay back K8.7 million to the PPDA as he illegally held the position of chairperson of the authority’s board.
The PPDA has since written the Office of the Ombudsman confirming compliance.