Ombudsman Martha Chizuma has nullified contracts of Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) former director generals (DGs) Godfrey Itaye and Henry Shamu alongside other directors and managers for unlawful recruitment.
Some 16 employment contracts were nullified for various reasons following an investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman into how Itaye and others were recruited by Macra.
For all nullified contracts at the parastatal, Chizuma has ordered that costs emerging from those that are injured by the directives should be settled personally by those who were responsible for their recruitment, including in some instances, former president Peter Mutharika, former Secretary to the President and Cabinet Lloyd Muhara and the Macra Board.
The Ombudsman has also ordered the new Macra board to advertise all the nullified contracts within a specific period.
Shamu, who is a former postmaster general (PMG) and was seconded from Malawi Posts Corporation (MPC) as DG, was not subject of the complaint, but the Ombudsman said she reviewed his employment as a matter that emerged in the Macra investigation.
Fo l l o w i n g t h e Ombudsman’s directive, both Shamu and Itaye will lose their terminal benefits, and if their benefits were already paid, the Ombudsman ordered that they should be reclaimed.
The report, titled Secure Deception, states that Itaye was initially appointed PMG on August 27 2014 by Mutharika without any interviews.
A year later, Itaye was appointed Macra DG following an extraordinary meeting held at Ryalls Hotel on August 10 2015. Minutes of the meeting indicate that the board was informed that its recommendation of Andrew Kumbatira as DG was not accepted by then Minister of Information which meant there was a vacancy in the office.
The board reportedly advised that government proposed that it should consider re-assigning Itaye, a thing they deliberated and recommended to the minister who on the same day accepted. Itaye’s appointment later was effective August 9 2015.
In May 2020, government
redeployed Itaye to MPC to serve as PMG and on June 17 2020, Muhara redeployed Itaye from MPC to Lilongwe Water Board. On November 16 2020 government deployed Itaye back to MPC.
Itaye’s current contract with Macra was supposed to expire on January 30 2022, but the Ombudsman nullified all the contracts and ordered Macra board to provide evidence of the nullification by May 30 2021.
Ordered Chizuma: “Mr. Godfrey Itaye’s employment as PMG in 2014 was illegal. Under Section 78 of the Communication Act (1998), the Minister of Information was mandated to appoint the PMG on recommendation from the board. Contrary to this, the evidence is clear that Mr Itaye was appointed PMG by the President through the then Chief Secretary Mr Willie Samute and facilitated by the former Comptroller of Statutory Corporations Mr ZangaZanga Chikhosi.
“None of these had the legal mandate to make the appointment. Further to this, there is no evidence that the recommendation was on merit after an open and transparent process as required by the Public Service Act. This was a maladministration.”.
The recruitment processes, concluded the Ombudsman, were a mockery and boards were only used to rubber-stamp decisions already made.
On Shamu, who recently resigned from government service, the report says he was appointed as PMG without any interviews and that his contracts, including his deployment to Macra, were illegal.
The Ombudsman warned that political appeasement, nepotism and tribalism should stop being a yardstick for employment in public offices and further nullified over seven manager-level positions that were advertised as Voucher Adverts, saying the move was contrary to the law as no public office is allowed to use such a recruitment method.
Other contracts that were nullified were found to have no prerequisite qualifications and in some cases new officers were recruited to replace deserving
serving officers while others were employed in positions that do not exist on Macra’s structure.
One recruitment exercise drew suspicion that it had been staged with the preferred candidate scoring close to 100 percent while his rivals for the job had their result sheets altered with erasures for unexplained reasons.
The Ombudsman further found that the board members for the 2019 cohort had no qualifications for such work and that only two of its members could ably articulate issues related to the board.
On technical adviser on digital migration Benson Tembo, the Ombudsman said his recruitment was wrong as he went to Macra on secondment from Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) to pave the way for his then deputy Aubrey Sumbuleta to ascend to DG position.
The Ombudsman also found that a vehicle owned by Macra was deployed to State House and was used by then head of security Norman Chisale.
But the report dismissed an allegation that Fegus Lipenga, one of the directors for Macra (responsible for broadcasting), was recruited illegally. The Ombudsman also dismissed similar accusations against four junior employees for lack of evidence.
Itaye could not be reached for comment yesterday while Shamu refused to comment on the findings.
He said briefly: “You are looking for my comment? No comment.”
Reacting to the report, Macra board chairperson Stanley Khayila yesterday said they will convene within days to review the determination and ensure it complies with the report.
On his part, Ministry of Information Principal Secretary (responsible for e-government) Francis Bisika said the ministry will ensure that key stakeholders follow the law in complying with the directives.
The Office of the Ombudsman is mandated under Section 123 (1) of the Constitution to investigate any cases of injustice. Under Section 5 (1) of the Ombudsman Act Cap. 3:07 of the Laws of Malawi, the Ombudsman has the mandate to inquire and investigate any complaint by any organ or employee of the government concerning unfair treatment and abuse of power, among others