- Ombudsman exposes rot in Mera recruitment
- Says Magalasi appointment illegal
An investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman has exposed unprocedural recruitments of top executives at the Malawi Regulatory Authority (Mera), including the appointment of former chief executive officer (CEO) Collins Magalasi.
In her determination, the Ombudsman Martha Chizuma stripped Magalasi—whose contract expired—of his terminal benefits and ordered that those wrongly promoted and recruited be demoted.
She said in the report released on Friday that her office has been investigating Mera since last year after receiving complaints alleging “irregular, nepotistic, discriminatory and fraudulent” recruitment processes at the energy regulator.
Titled Institutional Anarchy, the report investigated 12 employment related cases and discovered that some directors and managers were recruited without having the prescribed qualifications.
Chizuma said according to Section 118 of the Energy Regulatory Act, the Mera CEO is supposed to be appointed by the board after announcing a vacancy and conducting interviews.
However, the investigation gathered that former president Peter Mutharika bypassed the provision and just appointed Magalasi, his former chief economic adviser to the position.
Reads the report: “When the board members tried to kick-start the recruitment process after passing a resolution at their 37th Extraordinary Board Meeting, the ex-officio members, namely the Ministry of Energy and the Comptroller of Statutory Corporation informed them that the board could not proceed to recruit the CEO.”
The ex-officio members informed the board that this was a role and function of the Department of Comptroller of Statutory Corporations and there was a need to inform the Office of the President and Cabinet.
The Ombudsman said the board later learned that the president had appointed Magalasi and ruled as follows: The appointment of Dr. Collins Magalasi, without advertising the position and allowing for fair and open competition was illegal and unprocedural. “The appointment of Dr. Magalasi by the State President is contrary to the dictates of the Constitution as read with the Energy Regulation Act.”
The Ombudsman has meanwhile ordered that Magalasi, who was appointed in 2017, should not be paid his terminal benefits.
“I therefore, direct the board to treat Dr. Collins Magalasi’s contract as a nullity right from the start. Accordingly, the Board should not pay him any end of Term Benefits and if the same have already been paid, they should be reclaimed,” the report reads.
The report said those who were recruited irregularly are electricity and renewable energy director the late Maxwell Mkumba, planning and monitoring manager Godfrey Chilenga, senior information communications and technology officer Billy Kayira, legal manager Cynthia Chawani and internal audit manager Alex Ganiza.
Meanwhile, Chizuma reported that she did not rule on a complaint about the recruitment of the human resource manager Troy Mtenje as it was being handled by the Anti-Corruption Bureau.
The Ombudsman said she cleared acting CEO Ishmael Chioko on the allegations that he was irregularly promoted and that he did not have qualifications to be legal services director.
Chizuma said according to Section 18 of the Energy Regulation Act, the powers to appoint the CEO are vested in the board, but his appointment was not a substantive one; hence, did not need to be made by the board.
The Ombudsman also ruled that there was an abuse of benefits by the CEO’s personal assistant Priscilla Mkandawire, who she discovered uses a “company motor vehicle and fuel benefits contrary to Mera’s Terms and Conditions of Service.” She described it as abuse of public resources.
In an interview Mera board member Phyllis Manguluti welcomed the report and committed: “This is the report that we have been expecting. We will go through it. There are determinations that have been made. We are going to give feedback accordingly.” n