One of NOCMA’s fuel reserve depots
* One big transporter brokerage company was working directly with politicians to take all of NOCMA’s transportation business
* And claim billions from Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA) whilst passing the cost to the consumers
* NOCMA has tirelessly worked hard against all odds to sustain fuel supply with very little and no forex at all since January 2022
By Duncan Mlanjira
A day before being fired as deputy chief executive officer of National Oil Company of Malawi (NOCMA), Helen Buluma revealed that she had faced numerous pressure to surrender NOCMA depot in Chipoka, Salima to a Malawi Congress Party (MCP) politician and his Asian investor.
Buluma further reveals that “one big transporter brokerage company was working directly with politicians to take all of NOCMA’s transportation business and claim billions from Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA) under a particular incoterm whilst passing the cost to the consumers, among others”.
She indicated that President Lazarus Chakwera “has strongly been against this and advised me to always do everything according to the law and not bow down to any political pressure, otherwise or directly, in conflict to His Excellency’s direction on political meddling and influencing”.
“…I took on the new four month contract at NOCMA solely because the country was undergoing serious foreign exchange challenges which were undermining the fuel supply in the country.
“I felt the need to render my service over a short period of time to support efforts towards solving the fuel shortages without undermining continuity issues as you wanted to recruiting onto the position as chief executive officer,” said the letter addressed to NOCMA Board chairperson, Colleen Zamba, who is also who is also Secretary to the President and Cabinet (SPC).
She maintained that she and her team at NOCMA “have tirelessly worked hard against all odds to sustain fuel supply with very little and no forex at all since January 2022.
“In the month of October, we received no foreign exchange support but managed to supply the whole country through continuous negotiation with suppliers on an open credit just to avert a serious stock out.”
She also said the pressure from the politicians had and continues to put her life in danger but her core principles and commitment was “to do the right thing always on the job even if it means being vilified, bullied or even losing my job” while investing over the past two years to make the company a corruption-free institution.
She said she and her management team worked “against all odds to unlock additional financing that hopefully will sustain normalization of the fuel supply and it is painful to all — at the sidelines of all these efforts — to continuously fight attempts for senior government officials and politicians to dubiously benefit from such efforts”.
“I am left with no choice but to resign as it has become difficult for me to proceed on this job and more so now as some of the pressures are coming directly from you, who is my direct boss.
“I am grateful to you, the Board chairperson for NCOMA for granting me the opportunity to serve my country. Working with NOCMA provided me with a challenging environment and has been a great and unique learning experience for me.
“As I move on to search for new opportunities, I step out as a strong, resilient, resolute and focuse professional — proud that I served without compromising principles and integrity.”
A day later, November 15, Zamba issued her with a letter terminating her employment contract that was based on the determination made by the Ombudsman that ordered that the NOCMA Board should relieve her of duties.
Zamba said after the Board wrote to the Ombudsman on October 31 objecting to her determination to effect the decision, they obtained an alternative legal advice from the Attorney General, who advised them that they were “compelled to undertake the determination even if disagreed”.
“Any review rights are the domain of the Courts,” Zamba said in her letter. “Consequently, I regret to inform you that you have been relieved from your duties, effective immediately in compliance with the Ombudsman’s determination.”
Zamba’s letter was copied to herself as SPC, Secretary for Energy and Comptroller of Statutory Corporations.