The High Court in Lilongwe has granted Power Market Limited (PML) chief executive officer (CEO) Rosemary Mkandawire a stay order stopping the Ombudsman’s inquiry into PML establishment and her recruitment.
In the court order dated July 22 2020 for judicial review case No 35 of 2020 at Lilongwe District Registry, Judge Yakuwawa Msiska has directed that the inquiry be pended until the judicial review application is heard on August 1 2022.
Reads the court order in part: “It is hereby ordered that the defendant is restrained and prevented from carrying out or undertaking a public inquiry pending the hearing on notice to the defendant of application for permission to apply for judicial review.”
Ombudsman Grace Malera was today scheduled to commence the inquiry with representatives of Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi Staff Union (ESU) and Comptroller of Statutory Corporations in Blantyre.
In a telephone interview yesterday, she said: “I am working with our legal and investigations team to examine the options that are available to us in light of the injunction and see the best course of action going forwards.”
According to PML lawyer Wapona Kita, the court relief was, among others, sought on grounds that the claimant was not given an opportunity to respond to the allegations, adding that under Section 123 (1) of the Constitution and 5(1) of Ombudsman Act, Malera does not have jurisdiction to probe the matter.
A letter dated June 24 2022, titled ‘Public Inquiry into Allegations of Irregular Recruitment at PML’, signed by Malera, states that the complainants had alleged that the entire executive management at PML was recruited without undergoing interviews, but was appointed based on political affiliation to the former ruling Democratic Progressive Party.
Reads the letter in part: “Please be advised that I am looking into the recruitment process, if it followed all applicable regulatory framework within your organisation. You are, therefore, expected to respond on this allegation…non-compliance with this notice will result in initiation of contempt proceedings at the High Court against yourself under Section 124(d) of the Constitution.”
ESU, among others, wants the Ombudsman to reverse all the decisions that were irregularly made, both on the establishment of PML and recruitment of its top management positions.
The union also argues in the letter that the most rational and sensible thing to do in the meantime is to maintain single buyer function, transmission, systems market operator and distribution as divisions within unified Escom, adding that Malawi’s current and medium-term power sector outlook does not warrant the operationalisation of PML.
The row between the two parties emanates from Escom’s failure to cede the role of single buyer of power, which, according to the law, is supposed to be performed by PML.
Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority officials, however, told Parliament earlier this year that they currently recognise PML as the institution handling the single-buyer system and called on Escom to only handle what is within its mandate.