By Deogratias Mmana:
The Public Appointments Committee (Pac) of Parliament has summoned Secretary to the President and Cabinet Colleen Zamba and former acting chief executive officer for the National Oil Company of Malawi (Nocma) Hellen Buluma for members to come to the bottom of Buluma’s alleged resignation.
On November 16 2022, the government finally succumbed to growing pressure to remove Buluma from Nocma.
The decision came almost a month after Ombudsman Grace Malera determined that Buluma’s recruitment as Deputy CEO at Nocma was irregular and unprocedural.
She, therefore, recommended that she be relieved of her duties.
But Nocma Board Chair, Secretary to the President and Cabinet Colleen Zamba, in a hard-hitting response, rejected Malera’s determination.
She said in the letter that the Nocma board had actually made Buluma acting CEO until December after the expiry of her contract as Deputy CEO in August.
However, legal minds argued that Zamba’s response was inconsistent with the law, which stipulates that the Ombudsman’s determination can only be challenged through court.
On November 16, the government buckled.
However, questions remain as to who acted first between Zamba and Buluma, who claimed to have resigned first.
Buluma further claimed, last week, that she had not seen the letter of dismissal from Zamba.
Now, Parliament has weighed in on the issue.
In a letter addressed to Buluma, reference number NA/PC/11 and dated November 18 2022, Pac Chairperson Joyce Chitsulo says her committee wants to understand the issues Buluma raised in her resignation letter.
According to the letter, Pac wants to hear more on allegations that Zamba and others put pressure on her to bring new oil suppliers through dubious means and, in some instances, expensive fuel financiers.
Pac also wants more details regarding the meeting Zamba convened on November 13 2022, when she is said to have given directives to Nocma management to quickly publish a request for proposal to include unsolicited expressions of interest for fuel supply and for Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority management to influence its board to rescind its decision not to declare a fuel crisis emergency.
“In that regard, I hereby summon you to come and appear before the Public Appointments Committee at Parliament Building on Wednesday, 23rd November, from 9.00 a.m.
“You will be expected to give evidence on the circumstances leading to your resignation and the status of your employment contract. Do fail not,” Chitsulo’s letter reads.
Chitsulo confirmed writing the letter and Buluma confirmed receiving it.
The Pac chair further said Zamba is also summoned to appear before her committee on the same day but at different times from Buluma.
“Ms Buluma alleges several issues which point to board interference in management of a public company. That raises our concern and my committee has that mandate to inquire into the competence of public officers where need be,” Chitsulo said.
She said the committee expects Buluma to provide evidence for allegations contained in the resignation letter.
Buluma confirmed getting the summons.
“I am indeed in receipt of the summons and I am ready to appear before the committee as summoned,” she said.
Zamba did not respond to our questionnaire when we wanted to know her reaction to the summons.