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Government admits blunder

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By Rebecca Chimjeka:

Following pressure from civil society organisations and donors on the appointment of the Auditor General, government is set to advertise the post.

Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe confirmed the development with Malawi News Friday that the Office of the President and Cabinet will soon advertise the post.

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“I don’t have all the details but the position is expected to be advertised in the newspapers,” Gondwe said.

But when the minister was asked whether the advertising of the post of Auditor General would be an admission of the blunder the government made in the earlier appointment, Gondwe downplayed the move.

“Why is it that when government has made a decision, journalists think that it is because of pressure,” he said.

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Despite President Peter Mutharika assenting to the new act on the appointment of the Auditor General, he appointed Harold Mwala, a former Admarc employee, to the position using an old law; Section 5 of the Public Audit Act as read with Section 183 (3) of the Constitution, which gave appointing powers to the President and confirmation by a committee of the National Assembly.

But Section 5(a) of the new law which was gazetted on May 11 2018 after the President assented to it on May 8 provides for a transparent procedure in the appointment of the Auditor General which includes advertising in two widely circulating newspapers and instituting a panel to shortlist candidates and conduct interviews.

Section 5(a) (5) reads: “The President shall subject to Section 183 (3) of the Constitution appoint an Auditor General only from the names on the list recommended by the selection.”

However, just after the appointment of Mwala, human rights defenders Gift Trapence and Timothy Mtambo hired private lawyers from Bunnel & Associates to challenge the appointment of Mwala

The human rights defenders through their lawyers wrote the Chief Secretary to Government Llyod Muhara saying, among others, the appointment of Mwala disregarded several procedures outlined in the new Public Audit Act.

Mwala’s name appeared on Parliament’s Order Paper, alongside that of Inspector General Rodney Jose as one of Mutharika’s appointments to be confirmed by Members of Parliament (MPs) when the House last met in June.

But probably realising the mistake, the confirmation proceedings were cancelled and Leader of the House Kondwani Nankhumwa said the appearance of Mwala’s name on the Order Paper might have been a technical error by the Parliament secretariat.

Mtambo has welcomed the move by government saying they are would not proceed to fight the matter in the court of law.

“We commend government for listening to voice of reason. This should save as a lesson that government should not flout procedures willy-nilly when making any appointment,” Mtambo said.

He, however, said, when the process commences, government should ensure it is done in a transparent manner so that recruitment should be on merit and that no law should not be violated.

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