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Ombudsman ‘fires’ Helen Buluma

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HAS GIVEN 30 DAYS—Malera

The country’s Ombudsman yesterday sealed the fate of embattled Nocma Deputy CEO Hellen Buluma by ordering that her hiring actually never happened, which could prompt Capital Hill to speed up the hunt for a CEO to avert ‘leadership vacuum’ at Nocma

The Office of the Ombudsman has directed the Board of Directors for the National Oil Company of Malawi (Nocma) to nullify the employment of its Deputy Chief Executive Officer (DCEO) Helen Buluma.

The directive follows results of the Ombudsman’s investigation which have established that Buluma’s recruitment was unlawful, irregular and unprocedural and that every process about it constituted maladministration.

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Presenting her determination in Lilongwe Friday, Ombudsman Grace Malera said the investigation also found out that Buluma was hired following a directive by former president Peter Mutharika.

Buluma, during the inquiry, admitted to have not applied for the post but insisted she had the necessary skills, experience and qualifications, a defence which Malera trashed.

Such an appointment, according to Malera, flouted Section 4 of the Public Service Act which provides for an open and competitive process of recruitment by away of advertisement for executive positions in government.

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The probe has also faulted the Comptroller of Statutory Corporations for issuing an appointment letter to Buluma, a duty which is by law vested in the Board of Directors of Nocma.

It has additionally accused all officers in the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) who facilitated the hiring, accusing them of failure of duty, ineptitude and arbitrariness in reaching the decision.

“The board of Nocma should immediately proceed to effect the attendant administrative action as if the recruitment and appointment of Buluma never happened as DCEO, and did not take place,” the report reads in part.

Malera has also directed against any intentions to renew Buluma’s contract which expired in August, 2022 adding that if the extension or renewal was already effected, it should be voided immediately.

Payment of any terminal benefits including gratuity has also been stopped, with the board being cautioned against allowing Buluma to benefit from an illegality.

“Ms Buluma does not have a legitimate expectation in respect of such terminal benefits, since a person cannot be deemed to have a legitimate expectation over an illegality,” Malera adds in her order.

The investigation, which was launched following four complaints, has also disclosed that at the time of her appointment, the position of DCEO was not on the approved establishment of Nocma.

Buluma has however been exonerated for re-enforcing her security with armed police officers.

“The allocation of extra security detail to the DCEO was within an institutionally sanctioned policy. On this premise, the allegation of abuse of office has not been proven,” the report reads further.

Malera has since given the Nocma board up to 30 days to furnish her office with a report on implementation of the spelt directives.

When we tried to contact her for a reaction to the outcome of the Ombudsman’s investigation, Buluma did not pick our calls after several attempts.

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