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Court gags Ombudsman

RAISED CONFLICT OF INTEREST ALARM— Chirombo

THINKING ABOUT
NEXT MOVE— Malera

The High Court sitting in Lilongwe Wednesday granted an injunction to the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) stopping Ombudsman Grace Malera from releasing an investigations report dubbed ‘Curbing Impunity on Alleged Unprocedural and Irregular Hiring of Mera Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Henry Kachaje’.

The injunction came less than 24 hours after Mera, through its vice board chairperson Innocencia Chirombo, expressed concern over Malera’s involvement in conducting the investigations, saying she was an interested party as she applied for the Mera CEO job but was not shortlisted.

The drama started at 10:10am when court officials stormed into the room where Malera was briefing reporters on the outcome of her office’s investigations.

The officials presented Malera with a green flat file containing court injunction documents, a development that forced the Ombudsman to cut her briefing short, some 10 minutes into the programme.

While curtailing the presentation of the report, Malera was quick to point out that she had already shared copies of her determination before the briefing with complainants Richard Chapweteka, the Anti-Corruption Bureau— which brought the matter as a referral after receiving a complaint from Fryson Chodzi— as well as Mera itself.

Malera said she took some time to consider the issue of conflict of interest and resolved that though she had applied for the job, her disposal of the matter could not be affected by that,

Among other things, the injunction, obtained by Mera legal counsel Wapona Kita, restrains Malera from commencing and carrying an inquiry into the legality and procedural correctness of hiring Kachaje as Mera CEO until the hearing of the inter-partes application for interim relief.

“It is hereby ordered that until the hearing of the inter-partes application for interim reliefs or until further order, the decision by the defendant [Ombudsman] to commence and carry out an inquiry into the legality or procedural correctness of the recruitment of Henry Kachaje as Chief Executive Officer of the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority is hereby stayed or suspended pending the determination of this matter or until further order of this court.

“The respondent is further hereby restrained from pronouncing any decision on the subject matter herein until the final determination of the matter or until a further order of the court,” the injunction document reads.

The injunction, granted by High Court Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda, says the interim reliefs to Mera are valid until November 25 2021, within which time Mera should take out an inter-partes application to continue them.

Malera said her office would explore the possibility of vacating the injunction.

Kita was not available to comment on the grounds of the injunction.

Chirombo, who attended the briefing, could not shed light on the grounds of the injunction.

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