Some civil society leaders have given Chief Secretary to the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) Lloyd Muhara three days to reverse the appointment of new Auditor General (AG) or risk legal action.
Through private lawyers Bunnel & Associates, two CSOs leaders Timothy Mtambo and Gift Trapence argue that the appointment of Harold Mwala as new AG did not comply with the law of the land as such it has to be rescinded.
Mtambo and Trapence are vocal government critics and they head Centre for Human Rights Rehabilitation (CHRR) and Centre for the Development of People (Cedep), respectively.
Their action comes barely a day after Malawi’s development partners, including the United States of America, also expressed concern that by using an old law to appoint the new AG, President Peter Mutharika’s administration was slowing down implementation of the new Public Audit Act.
Mwala was appointed using the old Section 5 of Public Audit Act as read with Section 183 (30 of the Constitution which gave the appointing powers to President and confirmation by a committee of the National Assembly.
But Section 5 (a) of the new law gazetted on May 11 2018 after the President signed it into law on May 8 provides for a transparent procedure in the appointment of AG which includes advertising in two widely circulating newspapers and instituting a panel to shortlist candidates and conduct interviews.
In a letter dated June 26 2018 and addressed to Chief Secretary, Trapence and Mtambo say they have noted with concern that the appointment of Mwala disregarded several procedures outlined in the new Public Audit Act.
“Our clients are concerned with impunity in which the Auditor General was appointed, hence; their demand that the decision to appoint Mr Harold Mwala should be rescinded. Our clients have also noted that Mr Mwala is not qualified to be appointed Auditor general.
“Our clients have instructed us to demand from you that you should rescind the appointment of Mr Harold Mwala with immediate effect, failing which our clients would seek court redress on your action,” reads part of the letter signed by lawyer Maxwell Tembo.
In another development, the two human rights activists have also written the Chief Secretary, demanding his office to discipline civil servants who are contesting for political positions in political parties prior to the 2019 Tripartite Elections, contrary to Civil Service Regulations.
In an interview, Tembo said the letters were served yesterday (Wednesday) and if the Chief Secretary does not respond positively within three days they would proceed with legal actions.
“We have given him three days. If there is no action then we are ready to proceed with our action. They know the Public Service Regulations is very clear that any civil servant wishing to vie for any position in any political party must first resign from the civil service,” said Tembo.
Section 193 of the Constitution stipulates that members of the civil service shall ensure that the exercise of participation in political activities does not compromise their independent exercise of their functions, powers and duties as impartial servants of the general public.
Muhara could not be reached on his mobile phone yesterday but government spokesperson Nicholas Dausi said he could not competently comment on the issue as he was yet to see the letters of demand.