The Competition and Fair Trading Commission (CFTC) executive director Wezi Malonda is leaving the commission after seven years of service. She was also part of the start –up staff employed to set up the commission, put systems in place, enforce the law and establish its corporate image on the market. She speaks to our News Analyst GRACE PHIRI of her service to the commission.
You helped set up the commission since 2012. How do you look back to the years?
I am content that we have achieved more work with fewer resources. Key to our work was ensuring that economic markets continue to operate and benefit consumers and the private sector. In fact, I was privileged to be one of the three female heads of competition authorities in Africa because the field is male-dominated.
How do you rate your performance at the commission?
As a testimony of good performance locally and internationally, the commission has been recognised by the Office of the President and Cabinet [OPC] as the best performing statutory corporation [Gold Class Award] for three consecutive years from 2015/16 financial year to date—being branded a center of excellence. The commission also won three competition advocacy awards from the ICN/ World Bank Group during the same period for its advocacy interventions in different industries, and another award from Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry [MCCCI] in 2014-15.
In 2015, the commission adopted its first Five-Year Strategic Plan as its road map. What has been the significance of this roadmap to the commission’s work?
Over the past three years, our case load has increased by 230 percent. However, our budget has not increased by the same margin. This essentially means that the commission has to rely on more efficient ways of handling cases, without compromising on natural justice principles, at the same time restricting itself with what is within its legal mandate.
The increase in number of cases registered from 176 in the previous year to 231 in 2017/18 represents a 31 percent increase in the number of cases received. We attribute this to increased advocacy and awareness campaigns undertaken by the commission.
I am also happy that cases are being resolved in line with international best practices, respecting all due processes. As a result of thorough investigations and cease and desist order, handling of cases by the commission has been accelerated thereby ensuring quick restoration of favourable market conditions.
During my tenure, there has been speedy resolution of consumer complaints which led to a 583 percent increase in monetary refunds to consumers from K6.3 million recovered in the first two years to K42.7 million recovered during the review period.
How is the state of competition and fair trading in the country?
In 2017/18 alone, the rate of compliance was sitting at 54 percent based on business inspections. This is a clear positive indication of successful self-regulation by the market. However, the biggest compliance challenge remains non-display of prices by shops and display of disclaimers, which is detrimental to consumer welfare and can also have a non-competitive effect as there is possible distortion of prices by traders.
In terms of compliance with the commission’s orders, the CFTC only faced four appeals in the recent past, out of 116 cases, which reflects a 3 percent challenge. I am happy as out-going enforcer that it shows that both complainants and respondents do find the decisions of the CFTC satisfactory; hence, the low number of appeals. Pleasantly, this is a near 100 percent compliance record with CTFC orders. I am happy that my team has worked hard to attain this and looking forward the rate will get to 100 percent.
How has been your journey serving at the commission?
It has been an exciting service to contribute to the development of the private sector in Malawi and ensure that consumer interests are safeguarded for a change and I commend CFTC management and staff who have provided solid and reliable service to the public. Previously, people viewed the role of consumer protector to be that of civil society; however government’s firm commitment towards consumer protection was reinforced during my tenure through the establishment and support towards the commission. I wish my successor the best as I pass on the mantle to continue this noble work.
Do you have a last word?
I am grateful to have been part of this history of CFTC and look forward to exciting years ahead as a competition practitioner and women-in-leadership expert.