Malawians Tuesday took to social media to express anger over Public Appointments Committee (Pac) of Parliament’s decision to reject Ombudsman Martha Chizuma as the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB)’s new Director-General.
During Tuesday’s interview, a total of 18 out of 21 members of Pac were available and, after aggregating the rating, it transpired that Chizuma scored 14.9 out of 25. The minimum pass rate is 17 scores.
It transpired that, out of the 18 members that participated in the interview, nine scored her 25 out of 25 while the remaining nine scored Chizuma one out of 25.
However, a source within Pac told The Daily Times that, despite Chizuma’s classic performance during the meeting, it was surprising that some members scored her low even on qualification when it was clear that she had the required qualifications.
“In a normal interview, if a candidate meets the prerequisite qualification set, it is automatic to give the interview the highest score in that section. It was shocking that some members scored Chizuma one even when it was clear that she qualified,” said the legislator.
However, Pac Chairperson Joyce Chitsulo said the door was not shut on Chizuma as any member of the committee could motion her office to have the rating of Martha Chizuma’s interview retaken.
Chitsulo added that there was no voting—as people are indicating; rather, each member scored Chizuma independently and, after adding the scores, she could not reach the minimum average of 17.
“We did everything procedurally. The process was according to the law; however, people are not happy with the decision. Any member of the committee can move my office and the rating can be retaken,” she said.
Chitsulo said, in the absence of any appeal, the decision that Pac has made would be communicated to the Office of the President and Cabinet and the Ministry of Justice through the Clerk of Parliament as per parliamentary procedures.
Ironically, the same Pac, in October last year, renewed Chizuma’s contract as the Ombudsman based on being highly qualified and professional.
Absent during the meeting were Symon Vuwa Kaunda, whose seat was recently declared vacant by the High Court; Yeremiah Chihana, who is out of the country on Pan-African Parliament duties, and Rachel Mazombwe Zulu. Former Zomba Changalume lawmaker, the late John Chikalimba, was replaced on the committee by Noah Chimpeni.
Lawmakers who attended the interview told reporters after the session that it was shocking to see that some panellists gave Chizuma a one out of 25 in one of the six themes of the interview, which included qualification, professionalism, presentation and dressing.
Neno South Member of Parliament Mark Katsonga Phiri described what happened during the meeting as “sad” for Malawi.
“It just shows how deep-rooted corruption is in Malawi. It is a shame that others have chosen to vote against a highly qualified anti-corruption campaigner in the name of Martha Chizuma,” Katsonga Phiri said.
Soon after news broke out that Pac had rejected Chizuma, Malawians went flat out on social media to express shock over the decision.
Some of the social media commentators described Pac as a “Public Disappointment Committee”, with others calling for a demonstration against committee members.
Chizuma’s rejection came barely 24 hours after she fired 16 Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority top executives for what she described as illegal recruitment.
Government spokesperson Gospel Kazako described Chizuma’s rejection as confirmation that corruption is deep-rooted in the country.
Kazako said the Tonse Alliance-led administration would not get emotional about the rejection and would not relent in the fight against the vice.
Speaking soon after coming out of the interview room, Chizuma expressed confidence that she would score highly.
Among other things, Chizuma said she would use ACB to make Malawians uncomfortable with corruption.
“I would like to see Malawians getting uncomfortable with corruption,” Chizuma said.
Following her rejection, Chizuma returns to her job as the Ombudsman and President Lazarus Chakwera would have to submit another name for confirmation by Pac.