By Duncan Mlanjira
In his response to the allegations leveled against him that came from the Ombudsman, Martha Chizuma on some irregularities at Blantyre Water Board (BWB), chief executive officer (CEO), Daniel Chaweza says the allegations are based on malice aimed at damaging someone’s personal reputation.
“This is coming from one or two disgruntled people who wish to settle a score by using your office,” Chaweza said of the irregularities of nepotism, tribalism, abuse of office, maladministration and irregular recruitment of staff including that of Chaweza himself.
“This can be showed by the inconsistencies in the allegations and submitting of a document without facts and evidence,” he continued, adding that some of the cases happened way back before he was appointed chief executive officer.
He then asked the Ombudsman to consider subsequent preliminary issues such as disclosing names of the whistleblowers and to furnish him with evidence to support the allegations for him to fully understand the case brought before him.
He said his office was ready to cooperate in the investigations and asks the Ombudsman to soberly and fairly look at the preliminary issues as an independent arbiter, “without any display of bias towards the people who lodged the complaints with your office”.
“You may wish to know that some of the matters you have raised in your letter are subject to litigation in the Industrial Relations Court, and that some of these cases were called for pre-hearing conference this very month of October 2020.
“It is important to inform your office that other cases mentioned in your letter were resolved administratively and that no one can proceed to lodge a complaint in this regard.
“Additionally, some names paraded or listed as victims have approached our administration office to distance themselves about the alleged maladministration or nepotism claims because they never approached anyone or any institution including the Ombudsman to complain, and also nobody approached them regarding lodging a complaint of which they should voluntarily be part off.”
Chaweza then schooled the Ombudsman that BWB has four directors — three of which are from Central and Northern regions — and that it has 15 senior managers, eight of which also come from the Central and Northern regions.
“So, almost half of senior management is not from Southern Region and are not Lomwes. Out of 8 senior managers, only two have been recruited during my time.
“We, therefore, doubt the basis for the complaint on nepotism allegations,” Chaweza says.
Meanwhile, the Ombdsman is also investigating various allegations largely against National Economic Empowerment Fund (NEEF) CEO, Mervis Mangulenje on abuse of office, irregular and nepotistic recruitments and biasness in the distribution of loans and other maladministration practices.
The complaint the Ombudsman receives alleges that Mangulenje and other members of the executive management were recruited without going through normal competitive process and that some of them did not meet the minimum required qualification for their positions.
“The complaint further alleges that the executive management was by majority nepotistic as most of its members had people from one section of the country,” says the Ombudsman and lists the names as follows:
* Mervis Mangulenje, CEO from Mulanje District;
* Hilarious Nampota, Head of Finance from Thyolo District;
* Alexon Mwakhula, Head of Operations from Phalombe District;
* Phocas Sikalola, Head of Support Services from Chiradzulu District;
* Edwin Visabwe, Head of Credit not provided in the complaint);
* Mphatso Naveya, Internal Audit and Compliance Manager (not provided in the complaint).
Other recruitments without interviews involved Anita Bingu, Yamikani Bandawe and Rex Mdala facilitated by Mangulenje while Sikalola employed his direct cousin Chikumbutso Maudzu as human resource officer and George Chigamba, his alleged nephew as data entry officer.
On abuse of office, the complaint alleges that in the run up to fresh presidential elections, Mangulenje; Mwakhula; Nampota and Naveya were drawing huge sums of money as allowances to travel out in the field recruiting clients for political reasons.
“The allegation further states that the work they were doing was responsibiliry of branch officers and not senior head Officers like them.
“According to an audit by the Central Internal Audit Unit, it was established that 16% of the sampled Ioan files with loans amounting to K287,564,456.36 were processed by Head Office staff having bypassed procedures that were supposed to be performed by the branch.
“As a result of this, loans were disbursed to groups that were not screened and trained as is required and contrary to procedure such that loan groups were categorized according to political constituencies and the branch officers could and can only access these groups through DPP party officials which made and continues to make it impossible to recover the loans.”
The executive management is also accused of fraudulent hiding and destruction of files for Mponela branch done by Jill Masache and Thandie Msiska sanctioned by Nampota and Mwakhula.
The Ombudsman is asking the acting CEO, Humphreys Mdyetseni to comprehensively respond to all the issues raised and should include, without fail, the following documents:
* NEEF’s terms and conditions of service;
* Loan Policy or any regulatory document used for granting of loans;
* NEEF’s organogram;
* Copies of central internal audit units between 2015 and 2020;
* Staff returns between 2015 and 2020;
* Documents relating to questioned loan disbursements;
* Allowances drawn by Mdyetseni and members of executive management between 2015 and 2020.
“I expect to receive all this information by Friday 13 November 2020 and your full cooperation on this matter,” said Ombudsman Chizuma in the letter dated November 6.