The Public Appointments Committee (Pac) of Parliament has maintained its stand on a proposed amendment of laws that allow Secretary to the President and Cabinet (SPC) to serve as board chairperson of statutory corporations.
In February this year, Pac Chairperson Joyce Chitsulo presented a report in Parliament for the period July 2020 to November 2021 which made observations that there were serious problems in institutions whose boards are chaired by the SPC.
In an interview on Wednesday, Chitsulo said while Pac was sent back to rework the report, the committee has maintained its position on the matter and will soon present the report.
“We were sent back to rework on the report. However, we were not told what we were exactly supposed to look at but after discussing it as a committee we have maintained our stand.
“We still think there is a conflict of interest when the SPC is chairing certain parastatals. Ironically, the parastatals that are chaired by the SPC are very strategic institutions that should be protected from any interference. So, we still maintain our stand that the SPC should not serve as chairperson because he or she is supposed to provide an oversight role,” she said.
The office of the SPC, currently held by Collen Zamba, chairs boards of Electricity Generating Company, Power Market Limited, National Oil Company (Nocma) and the Greenbelt Investment Limited.
The position of SPC is established under Section 92(4) of the Malawi Constitution which states that the SPC shall:
- have charge of the Cabinet office;
- be responsible, subject to the directions of the Cabinet, for arranging the business, and keeping the minutes of the Cabinet;
- convey the decisions of the Cabinet to the appropriate persons or authorities;
- and have such other functions as the Cabinet may direct.
Commentators have since described the amendment proposal as valid and democratic, arguing that this will help curb issues of political interference in parastatal boards.
University of Malawi (Unima) political analyst Mustapha Hussein said the SPC is supposed to provide overall leadership and as such boards ought to operate independent from such high authority.
“I would agree with the thinking that where possible the SPC should refrain from chairing some of these boards [because] the SPC is like the apex of the administration, the top most in terms of accountability. All these other boards will have to refer to the SPC on matters of administration. So, it makes sense in that it will prevent compromising accountability,” he said.
Micheal Kaiyatsa, executive director for Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), also supported Pac’s proposal.
“It would mean that the SPC does not get involved in the work of the boards as is the current situation and that will help improve the efficiency of the boards.
“And learning from experience, a lot of statutory corporations have been failing to discharge their duties because of SPC’s interference,” he said.
During the week, Comptroller of Statutory Corporations Peter Simbani wrote to board chairpersons to prepare handover notes ahead of the expiry of their tenure of office on September 22, 2022.
Simbani disclosed that his office has written to all ministries to nominate names that should be considered into the boards by July 31, 2022.