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CMST steps on Ombudsman’s toes

Martha Chizuma

Collins Magalasi

By Deogratias Mmana:

An investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman has exposed maladministration in the recruitment of some senior officers at the Central Medical Stores Trust (CMST).

According to the findings, former president Peter Mutharika, Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) and the Department of Statutory Corporations are all part of the mess.

Ombudsman Martha Chizuma released the document on Thursday on the investigation of alleged unprocedural, improper and irregular recruitment of some members of staff and unfair dismissals at the CMST by the Chief Executive Officer, Feston Kaupa.

Mutharika, who was also faulted last week by the Ombudsman for hiring Collins Magalasi as Chief Executive Officer at Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority, has also been caught on the wrong side of the law in the recruitment of Joe Khalani as Director of Pharmaceutical Operations.

“The subsequent appointment of Mr. Joe Khalani by the former president was seriously irregular. The president exercised the powers that he did not have in this case. He was a wrong appointing authority, with the right one being the Board who at first had appointed Mr. Ngwira, only to be overruled by Office of the President and Cabinet,” the report reads.

Chizuma has directed CMST to make a new offer to Geoffrey Ngwira, who was the successful candidate that the Board had appointed before the Department of Statutory Corporations hijacked the process, resulting in wrong authority making the offer.

Chizuma also faulted CMST for abandoning its legal duty to finalise the appointment of Khalani.

“The decision of the Board to abandon its legal duty to finalise the appointment and allow itself to be bulldozed by the Department of Statutory Corporations and submit the names of qualifying candidates to Office of the President and Cabinet for final appointment is a serious neglect of duty,” it reads.

She has since nullified the appointment of Khalani as Director of Pharmaceutical Operations as it was ‘illegal and irregular’.

Chizuma also found the recruitment of Rex Kuyeli as Director of Procurement illegal and irregular. She has since nullified Kuyeli’s three year contract that was granted to him on October 10, 2019.

She says Kuyeli’s appointment by the OPC was contrary to the Public Service Act and CMST’s own Terms and Conditions of Service.

“His appointment indignified public service management and breached the principles of fairness and open competition. The said appointment and subsequent confirmation by the Board was illegal and irregular. It was maladministration,” reads the report.

“Despite the fact he has served most [part] of his contract, his attainment of Director of Procurement position was through backdoor and an act of favouritism. This is something that as a country we must collectively frown upon,” the report further adds.

She has recommended that Kuyeli should revert to his old position of Senior Logistics Officer.

CMST has also received another whip for failure to advertise the post of Branch Manager internally when there were candidates within the entity who qualified for the post.

Further, the Trust is faulted for appointing David Kulemela as Branch Manager without interviews.

“[This] was not in line with existing laws and procedures, it was made in contravention of the Public Service Act and Terms and Conditions pf Service of Central Medical Stores Trust. This was maladministration,” the report reads, adding that Kulemela should revert to his old position as Pharmacist-in-Charge.

Chizuma has since directed OPC, as a matter of reform area, to provide for a clear policy and legal framework that will clearly define and give mandate to the office of the Comptroller of Statutory Corporations by March 30, 2022.

In her summary of the report, Chizuma said: “It is my hope that this report will help to bring sanity and orderliness in the way that parastatals handle their recruitment matters and also ensuring that they follow the existing laws and guiding frameworks all the time.”

The investigation has also cleared Kaupa from allegations that he employed the Director of Procurement.

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