Ombudsman Martha Chizuma has described as both illegal and unconstitutional acts by former Attorney General (AG) Kalekeni Kaphale and former Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) Chairperson Justice Jane Ansah who facilitated the hiring of South African (SA) lawyers to be part of the Presidential Election case.
Presenting the findings of a report on Thursday morning in Lilongwe titled “Upholding the Profession”, Ombudsman Chizuma said both Kaphale and Justice Ansah abused their powers and office by proceeding procuring the SA lawyers before completion procurement process as mandated by the Public Procurement and Disposal of Asset Authority (PPDA).
According to Chizuma, acts by two senior government officials saw government wasting public resources despite that the legal fees of the foreign lawyers were not settled down by the Commission.
“There was acts of maladministration by MEC over its failure to have a clear and set description of requirements for the service they wanted as it was contrary to procurement procedures and the ambiguity in description created an uneven playing field.
“The use of single sourcing the services of Mboweni Maluleke Inc. Attorneys when the grounds upon which single sourcing could be used were not met and before obtaining approval from PPDA to use single sourcing methods was illegal,” singled out maladministration Chizuma.”
The Ombudsman therefore ordered Ansah and Kaphale to pay back K3.1 million which was incurred through accomodation for the South African lawyers.
On his part, Justice Rezine Mzikamanda who represented Chairperson of the Judicial Service Commission during the briefing said the Commission will act once the report is delivered and fully read by the Chief Justice.
“It is a report that has detailed certain things that we must do going forward as a country, a lot of work was involved in coming up with this work by the Ombudsman.
“We will take time to look at the report itself more thoroughly and move forward as per directives,” said Justice Mzikamanda.
Meanwhile, the Malawi Law Society (MLS) said the report will enable the rule of law in the country.
“We are very glad that this report has made specific findings and made specific directions to public officials and institutions and we are hoping that this report will help us MLS to fighting for the rule of law in the country,” said Martha Kaukonde, MLS General Secretary.
The investigation by the office of the Ombudsman followed a complaint lodged by the Youth and Society (YAS).
Speaking during the release of the report, Programmes Manager for YAS Amos Simwera commended the office of the Ombudsman for its urgent action on the tip.
“We are happy, we lodged a complaint and the office of the ombudsman has acted upon, and we are impressed that the truth we wanted to see has come out,” said Simwera.
Ombudsman Chizuma has since directed that the former AG and former MEC Chair should refund in equal amounts K3, 155,248 which is the Malawi public funds money that was used on the SA lawyers through accommodation, beverages and meals at BICC Umodzi Park hotel for the period the lawyers were in the country.
She said the money should be paid back to MEC and proof of payment should be submitted to the Office by April 28, 2021.