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Ombudsman to ‘handle’ Lihaco abuse

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The country’s Ombudsman has disclosed that she will investigate alleged maladministration at Lilongwe Handling Company (Lihaco) by some top managers.

Reports have been rife that the said managers are giving themselves benefits that they are allegedly not entitled to, as they are in acting positions.

According to the Conditions of Service of the company, an employee in an acting capacity is entitled to receive an Acting Allowance calculated as the difference between his current salary and the entry point of the current salary of the grade in which he is acting.

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Documents that Malawi News is privy to, show that acting Operations Director Charles Makhuyula Nkhoma and acting Finance and Administration Director Mphatso Mponda are accused of paying school fees for their children while in acting position, a development said not to be in order.

Mponda is an Internal Auditor and there are fears that the governance oversight role at the institution could be compromised as he cannot audit himself.

The two are also accused of buying a mobile phone each at K800,000 when their entitlement is K350,000 each.

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Both were appointed in their acting positions in January this year.

Nkhoma was appointed acting Operations Director on January 23, 2021 according to his letter of appointment signed by Lihaco board vice chairman Martin Mainja.

Further, Mainja, is also accused of micromanaging Lihaco management by allowing to be one of the signatories of the company.

However, Lihaco Board of Directors chairman Gift Nankhuni said Friday that the board does not micromanage the organisation.

Nankhuni requested for the documents in our possession for his scrutiny before giving a comprehensive response.

Documents that we have show that on February 22, 2021 Lihaco paid K2,308,645.50 for Emmanuel Makhuyula Nkhoma through cheque number 023369 to Kamuzu Academy.

Nkhoma also claimed K400,000 being school fees which he paid to Good Shepherd International School for his son Yamikani. He made this payment on January 8, 2021 way before he was appointed as acting Operations Director.

On the other hand, Mponda paid school fees for his children Jonathan and Estellah amounting to K570,000 to Sparrow Christian Academy through cheque number 023371.

The two also purchased two mobile phones at K1,600,000 through cheque number 023358.

In an interview, Nkhoma said on Thursday that there is no illegal benefit that he and his friend are receiving as alleged.

He also agreed that an acting officer receives an allowance calculated as the difference between his current salary and of the grade in which he is acting but added: “This also includes all the benefits of the current holding position.”

On school fees, Nkhoma said Section 5.7.6 of the Conditions of Service provides for school fees payment of two biological or legally adopted children below 18 of employees from grade LH2 to LH 1, regardless of acting capacity or not.

He also agreed that there is nowhere in the Conditions of Service where it is stipulated that those in acting position shall not receive corresponding entitlements or benefits of the current position being held.

Responding to purchase of the phones, Nkhoma said: “The phones were a requirement when bank account signatures were being exchanged. The former executive management did not return the phones they were using because they had personal-to-holder configurations.

“It was therefore, imperative for the current position holders to have the phones to approve financial business transactions of the company.”

He said: “In a nutshell, the so called illegal benefits as alleged are actually in line with the provisions and benefits of the position holders.”

Meanwhile, Ombudsman Martha Chizuma has said she will investigate the issues.

“We will investigate the matter,” she said.

She added that usually those in acting positions get the difference in salary and not the other benefits.

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