MDF, Ombudsman clash over determination

 

The Legal Affairs Committee had to intervene in a wrangle between the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) and the Office of the Ombudsman when the army refused to abide by a determination which awarded compensation to a soldier who claimed that he had been constructively dismissed when he was transferred.

The committee has this week summoned several ministries, departments and agencies to respond to queries on non-compliance of Ombudsman determinations going as far back as 15 years ago.

Kuwali (C) responding to questions during the meeting

MDF felt the Ombudsman had overstepped her mandate in determining a matter that could have been best resolved within the MDF conditions of service for soldiers.

A soldier, Martin Maluza, claimed compensation for being unfairly treated when he was transferred from the Malawi Armed Forces  College in Salima to Chilumba Garrison (now barracks) in Karonga.

Maluza claimed that he was not paid a disturbance allowance and that his property was damaged during the transfer, which the Ombudsman granted him.

However, MDF director of legal affairs Dan Kuwali described the determination as erroneous as the Ombudsman did not hear the side of the army on the matter.

But the Ombudsman Martha Chizuma-Mwangonde said the MDF was given notice of the hearing but when they did not show up, the hearing proceeded in their absence.

She said rehearing the case as the MDF was proposing would set a bad precedent for  other ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) who would see it fit not to show up for hearing knowing another one would be held for their side of the story.

But Kuwali said paying the soldier would also set a bad precedent.

Chairperson of the committee Maxwell Thyolera resolved to discuss the matter in the absence of the MDF after which the committee determined that the army pay Maluza severance pay and take the necessary steps to seek review on the charge of constructive dismissal. n

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