There have been twists and turns in the recruitment of top managers of parastatals with some board members accusing the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) of interference and delaying the exercise.
The concerns follow OPC’s failure to fill positions of chief executive officers (CEOs) and other top managers in over 15 parastatals despite conducting interviews in December last year.
Meanwhile, a governance expert Rafiq Hajat has faulted the arrangement where the Secretary to the President and Cabinet (SPC) is chairperson of several parastatals, describing the arrangement as a recipe for disaster.
Some of the organisations where interviews were conducted are the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom), Technical Education, Vocational and Entrepreneurship Training Authority, Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra), Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera).
Others are National Oil Company of Malawi (Nocma), Public Procurements and Disposal of Assets Authority, Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC), Central Medical Stores Trust (CMST), Malawi Institute of Management, Financial Intelligence Authority, Lilongwe Water Board and Blantyre Water Board.
The post of CEO at Central Region Water Board has not been advertised, while the post of CEO at Southern Region Water Board has just been advertised.
In other organisations, boards of directors are yet to advertise for the positions despite President Lazarus Chakwera appointing the new boards 10 months ago.
For Escom, at a time the public was waiting for results of interviews conducted early this year for the positions of CEO and other managers, the Department of Comptroller of Statutory Corporations, on Wednesday this week, re-advertised in the newspaper the post of CEO and chief operating officer.
Department of Statutory Corporations spokesperson Headwick Madziataika Banda in a response to our questionnaire said Escom board was better placed to comment on the issue.
“The Department of Statutory Corporations serves as a secretariat for boards of parastatals during the recruitment of members of executive management. Your question on re-advertising the two positions would better be handled by the board chairperson.”
Currently, Escom has no board chairperson following the recent transfer of Chokani Mhango to the National Economic Empowerment Fund (Neef), which he is contesting in the courts.
But board chairpersons and senior officials of public entities that Weekend Nation spoke to, attributed the delays to announce results of the interviews or to advertise the vacant positions, to politics at OPC and the Department of Comptroller of Statutory Corporations.
Nocma has run without a CEO since November last year following the suspension of Gift Dulla for alleged financial mismanagement. Mera has also had no CEO since July last year following the arrest of Collins Magalasi for alleged fraud in the procurement of a laboratory van. The board did not renew his contract when it expired in November last year.
MHC has been without top management since December last year after former CEO Eunice Napolo and other senior managers were suspended.
Macra former director general Henry Shamu was suspended in December last year and the position has just been advertised. Escom board did not renew the contract of its former CEO Allexon Chiwaya in December last year after he was arrested in August for alleged fraud and corruption charges.
Lilongwe Water Board has been without a CEO after Godfrey Itaye was moved to Malawi Posts Corporation where the board rejected his redeployment. Engineer Mavuto Chiipanthenga has been acting CEO at Blantyre Water Board from November last year after former CEO Daniel Chaweza’s contract expired.
The delay to announce results for top positions at CMST has resulted in the successful candidate for the position of finance director getting a job elsewhere.
CMST board chairperson Josia Mayani confirmed that the board had to settle for the number two after the successful candidate refused the offer.
Secretary to President and Cabinet Zangazanga Chikhosi was yet to respond to our questionnaire on the claims by some board members, but government spokesperson Gospel Kazako, who is also Minister of Information, in an earlier interview said government is recalibrating how to recruit management of statutory corporations with a view to achieve vibrancy and productivity.
Said Kazako: “They [statutory corporations] need to be managed with a sense of productivity. This calls for a careful approach towards recruitment which some might mistake for being slow.”
Ironically, government has already filled positions of top managers in at least three parastatals where interviews were conducted a few months ago. They are Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation, Malawi Broadcasting Corporation and Tobacco Commission.
Hajat, who is executive director of Institute for Policy Interaction (IPI), observed that the position of SPC has nothing to do with operations of boards.
“It is highly incestuous to have SPC handle matters involving parastatals. SPC is basically a secretary to the President and OPC. SPC should not be sitting and chairing board meetings; he has to leave it to technocrats.”
He also faulted the arrangement where the President appoints boards of directors, saying it is another contributing factor to the politicking in the offices.
According to Hajat, the board members should be recruited the same way commissioners of the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) are hired to make parastatals autonomous. MHRC officers are initially nominated through cluster organisations.