By Deogratias Mmana:
Ombudsman Grace Malera has described Secretary to the President and Cabinet Collen Zamba as undermining the rule of law by refusing to comply with her recent determination for the removal of deputy chief executive officer for the National Oil Company of Malawi (Nocma), Hellen Buluma.
In her determination, Malera found that Buluma’s hiring at Nocma was unprocedural and irregular.
She advised the Nocma board, chaired by Zamba, to treat Buluma as if she was never employed in the first place and not to give her terminal benefits among others.
But in response to Malera’s determination, Zamba through her communication dated October 31, 2022, challenged Malera. She said the Nocma board had decided to retain Buluma in her position as acting CEO on her new four months contract.
Zamba also said Nocma board agreed to pay Buluma all benefits in relation to her three-year employment contract which ended on August 25, 2022 on the basis that she rendered full service to the company on the said contract.
But Malera, in her letter, says she finds Zamba’s non-compliance to the determination as out of order, not supported by law and contrary to the current administration’s philosophy of respecting the rule of law.
Malera schools Zamba that the best thing she could have done was to challenge the determination in court and not abuse power to undermine her determination.
“Accordingly, Madam…, kindly note that your responses to the Ombudsman’s determinations are untenable. It is for this reason that you will note that in the determination in question you were requested to furnish the Ombudsman with a report on how the Nocma Board would have implemented the directives that were made in the determination and not responses to the determination itself.
“Further to that, on the contrary, you have proceeded to retain Ms Buluma in her irregular and unlawful employment and to proceed benefits, contrary to the directives in the determination in question. and pay her terminal
“Kindly note that in the absence of a decision of a court setting aside the Ombudsman’s determinations upon review of the said determination, your office is not only proceeding illegally in out rightly refusing to implement the Ombudsman’s directives, but such actions are also tantamount to undermining the rule of law,” reads the letter.
The letter adds: “Further, your actions are contemptuous of a constitutionally established office, the Ombudsman’s office.
“Considering the supreme place and role of your office as Secretary to the President and Cabinet, in an administration that touts the rule of law as one of its founding principles, the actions of your office in this regard seriously counter the very ethos the current administration is championing.”
Malera further says Zamba’s letter is out of order and not supported by law.
The Ombudsman also trashes Zamba’s claim that Nocma board was not heard on Buluma’s employment, citing instances where the Ombudsman had a conversation with Zamba herself and where Office of the President and Cabinet Principal Secretary for Administration attended an inquiry session.
Malera has since told Zamba that she has reported her non-compliance to relevant authorities for action.
“In view of the foregoing, please be advised that the law accords my office under section 9 of the Ombudsman Act to accordingly report all instances of non-compliance to Parliament and the Cabinet for the appropriate actions of these authorities,” said Malera.
“I have accordingly transmitted a report on non-compliance to the stated authorities for their further actions, my office having dutifully and lawfully acted on the matter of the Nocma’s Deputy CEO’s recruitment, within the confines of the mandate of the office.”
Malera has copied her letter to the Attorney General.
We sent a questionnaire to Zamba for her reaction to Malera’s communication but there was no response.