The Public Appointments Committee (PAC) of Parliament has taken to task Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) board over alleged irregularities in the appointment of Henry Kachaje as chief executive officer (CEO).
PAC has queried Mera board to explain how it “shortlisted, interviewed and appointed Kachaje” when he allegedly did not meet the minimum qualifications for the position as indicated in the advertisement for the vacancy.
According to communication we have seen, PAC has summoned Mera board chairperson Leonard Chikadya to a meeting on November 3, 2021 to answer questions on the process leading to Kachaje’s appointment as Mera CEO.
In the letter, PAC chairperson Joyce Chitsulo also requested Chikadya to submit academic certificates the Mera board used to shortlist Kachaje.
“The documents should be received by October 22 2021,” reads the letter, in part.
Besides PAC’s query, the Office of the Ombudsman has also launched a public inquiry into the allegations of unprocedural recruitment of the former Economics Association of Malawi (Ecama) president.
The Comptroller of Statutory Corporation floated an advertisement in the newspapers in December last year, inviting applications from interested Malawians with a minimum education qualification of a master’s degree in either engineering, economics/finance, law, science or management.
Mera board short-listed eight applicants including Kachaje from the long list of 92 who were invited for interviews from where Kachaje emerged the best interviewee, according to documents Weekend Nation has seen.
Kachaje was then offered a three-year contract to be at the helm of the parastatal. He reported for work on August 24 2021.
However, three days later, the Parliamentary committee, through its chairperson, wrote Mera board chairperson Leonard Chikadya demanding an explanation on how Kachaje was appointed CEO when he “did not meet the minimum qualifications”.
According to PAC’s communication, dated August 27 2021, the committee ordered Mera board chairperson to submit a written explanation on Kachaje’s appointment to the Clerk of Parliament (CoP) by September 3 2021.
But Chikadya, in his response to PAC’s letter, defended Kachaje, arguing that the board settled for him because he performed outstandingly and emerged as the best candidate based on qualitative and quantitative assessment.
According to Chikadya, the interviews were conducted by the full Mera board and witnessed by representatives from Statutory Corporations and the Department of Human Resources Management.
“Having checked Mr Kachaje’s curriculum vitae, and from his performance during the interviews, the board was convinced that the candidate did not only meet the set minimum qualifications for the position, but also possessed the relevant experience to carry out duties of the strategic position of CEO of Mera,” reads part of Chikadya’s letter dated September 2 2021.
Chikadya said academically and professionally, Kachaje has all the relevant qualifications for the job and he was making arrangements to get copies of all his relevant academic certificates to be delivered to Parliament “under separate cover for your review as well”.
In an interview yesterday, Kachaje referred Weekend Nation to his board chairperson but expressed surprise with claims that he di not meet minimum qualifications.
He said he has a masters degree in business administration, a post graduate diploma in business consulting, an economics degree and several other professional qualifications which he said were higher than an ordinary masters degree.
But in an interview this week, Chitsulo said the Mera board chairperson was yet to submit to her committee Kachaje’s academic qualifications for review more than a month after he promised to do so.
“I can confirm about the issue but you may need to get in touch with the board chairperson of Mera because he is the one handling the issue.”
In an interview yesterday, Chikadya confirmed being asked by the committee to submit Kachaje’s papers, but said he did not do so because he did not have them.
“At that stage I did not have the documentation, but I can confirm that the documentation has since been sent to them,” he said.
Chikadya also confirmed the November 3 meeting with PAC originally slated for October 28.
“They just want to get some explanations, which the board will be too happy to share with them,” he said.
Before PAC wrote the Mera board, the Forum for National Development (FND) had already written the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) requesting them to investigate Kachaje’s appointment.
In its letter, dated August 25 2021, FND alleged that Kachaje got unfair advantage over many other Malawians who could have applied for the job if Mera was honest with its requirement.
However, ACB director general Martha Chizuma after reviewing the complaint and request referred FND to the Office of the Ombudsman to handle it.
Ombudsman Grace Malera has since launched a public inquiry and has invited FND executive director Fryson Chodzi to an initial inquiry slated for October 21.
“You are at liberty to bring documentary proof or witnesses that will support your assertions. Take note that you are also free to be accompanied by legal counsel or not,” reads Malera’s letter addressed to Chodzi, dated October 4 2021.
In an interview Wednesday, Chodzi said they took the matter on Kachaje’s qualification to ACB after being tipped by a whistlebower, saying they are set to attend the public inquiry and present their case.
“This matter should have been dealt with easily through proof of qualification and experience of the appointed CEO,” he said.
Former Ombudsman Chizuma cancelled out several appointments in public institutions due to irregular recruitment processes, although some of them challenged the decision in court.