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Pac wants SPC out of boards

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Joyce Chitsulo

The Public Appointments Committee (Pac) of Parliament has recommended to the august House that some powers of the Secretary to the President and Cabinet (SPC) should be reduced.

Pac Chairperson Joyce Chitsulo told Parliament that, among other responsibilities, the SPC should be striped of powers that allow him to head any board of a statutory corporation.

She said the involvement of the SPC in statutory corporations was compromising the decision-making process and making a mockery of good governance principles.

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Currently, SPC Zangazanga Chikhosi heads four boards of statutory corporations, among them boards of Energy Generation Company Power Market Limited, National Oil Company (Nocma) and Greenbelt Initiative Limited.

The recommendation follows an inquiry the committee undertook on the competence of the board of Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera), after it got involved in Nocma fuel procurement issues.

“If the SPC was not the chairperson of Nocma, he could have intervened and resolved the issue of Nocma and, in the process, saved the image of the government.

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“It will be imperative that the SPC should not be involved at any operational level to avoid conflict of interest between the SPC, as the head of public service, and chairpersons of parastatals,” the report reads.

According to Chitsulo, the committee did not find any sign of incompetence on the part of the Mera board but pointed at governance issues that, she claimed, made it difficult for the Mera board to effectively discharge its duties.

The committee noted that Nocma was undermining the authority of Mera because of the chairpersonship of its board.

“If such issues are not addressed, any incoming board of Mera would also appear incompetent because of the challenges in the working environment,” she said.

Chitsulo said, moving forward, the board should come up with clear and transparent frameworks that licence holders have to comply with so that licensees’ premiums could be considered by Mera and that Nocma should appreciate the role of the regulator and allow it to perform its functions.

The committee has since called for the amendment of relevant Acts of Parliament that have designated SPC as chairperson so that only the position of head of the public service can be provided for.

The committee committed to draft a bill in line with its findings.

Meanwhile, Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency Executive Director Willy Kambwandira has welcomed the recommendation.

“The SPC’s involvement in several boards is compromising his performance and is a recipe for corruption and fraud. His position as SPC is already too involving. It is our expectation that the proposal by Parliament will help enhance effectiveness of, and accountability in, parastatal organizations,” he said

The stand-off commenced when Mera refused to give Nocma the go-ahead to issue contracts to suppliers in the 2021 fuel supply deal.

Mera wanted an evaluation report on how Nocma arrived at the successive bidders first, something Nocma officials refused to do so.

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