Barely days after junior staff demanded the removal of some top managers at financially-struggling Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc), government has replaced chief executive officer (CEO) Margret Roka-Mauwa.
Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Kondwani Nankhumwa confirmed in an interview on Monday that Roka-Mauwa has since been replaced by Admarc board chairperson Felix Jumbe in an acting capacity.
Said the minister: “I can indeed confirm the several changes government has effected at Admarc. But this is not all. Expect more changes coming in a quest to improve service delivery.”
Jumbe’s letter of appointment dated November 29 and signed by the comptroller of Statutory Corporations Stuart Ligomeka reads in part: “In exercise of its mandate conferred by the Malawi Government under the Memorandum and Articles of Association of Admarc Limited, the board of directors of Admarc Limited appoints you [Jumbe] as acting chief executive officer…
“This acting appointment shall be terminated in writing when the incumbent CEO has been engaged.”
The removal of the CEO is seen a direct reaction to threats of an industrial action Admarc employees made last week during their meeting with Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development officials who included Nankhumwa. The nationwide strike was scheduled to start on Monday.
Besides Roka-Mauwa, who has been at the helm of the State produce trader for two-and-a-half years, the staff also demanded the removal of director of finance Harold Mwala and company secretary James Kaphale on allegations of abuse of office and mismanagement of resources.
Roka-Mauwa has since been seconded to Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development as controller of agricultural extension and technical services with immediate effect,
according to a letter dated December 2 2019 signed by Chief Secretary to the Government Lloyd Muhara.
Under the terms of her secondment, Roka-Mauwa will continue receiving her salary and other benefits she is entitled to from the statutory corporation, but government will be reimbursing the same to Admarc on a quarterly basis.
Meanwhile, seasoned insurer Stain Singo has been appointed as board chairperson of Admarc, taking over from Jumbe, a former Salima Central member of Parliament (MP).
But a governance expert, Boniface Chibwana, who is also national coordinator for Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), on Monday described Jumbe’s appointment as “conflict of interest and unfortunate scenario”.
He said: “Much of the rot at Admarc was supposed to be addressed by the board as a governance structure of the institution. Therefore, appointing the board chairperson to act as CEO is effectively worsening the problem.
“It would have been imperative if corporate governance principles were considered in addressing this problem, bearing in mind that Admarc, as a public body, saves public interest. Effectively having the board chair as CEO creates serious problems of conflict of interest.”
However, when asked to explain the decision to appoint the board chairperson, Nankhumwa said the board had not started functioning since an announcement was made about its appointment in August this year.
“No member of the board, let alone Jumbe, was given an appointment letter. They have also never met, so practically there was no board and he was not a board chair,” said the minister.
On the other hand, Singo’s appointment letter says his tenure of office as a board chairperson will run concurrently and expire together with all other board members. The current members of the board were appointed in August this year.
“Please take note that this appointment is not an employment contract; hence, it can be terminated any time government sees it fit to do so. This means that government reserves the right to terminate your appointment anytime before the end of the said term,” reads the letter.
The letter also says, as board chairperson, Singo will be expected to attend all board meetings, direct the affairs of the board of the organisation and provide effective leadership to the board of directors and management.
In an interview, Singo said he was yet to get his appointment letter as he was away in Mzuzu, but said he got a call from the comptroller of Statutory Corporations on Monday morning informing him about his appointment.
Admarc has in the past five years drained K100 billion on recapitalisation and social roles.
Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture and Irrigation chairperson Sameer Suleman told our sister newspaper, Weekend Nation on November 30, that despite cash injections from government and loans from commercial banks, Admarc is still struggling and run down. He called for a complete overhaul of the entity.