By Duncan Mlanjira
In its budgeted financial resources towards the cost of implementing various programmes, Malawi’s Central Medical Stores Trust (CMST) intends to apply part of the funds for payments under a contract for the provision of legal services by a reputable legal firm.
An Invitation for Expression of Interest (EOI), from CMST’s chairperson of Internal Procurement and Disposal of Assets Committee, has been placed in the media targeting eligible and qualified consulting firms for the provision of the legal services.
“The successful consultant will be contracted on annual basis, renewable for a maximum of two years subject to satisfactory performance,” says the advert.
The objective of the assignment, says the advert is to recruit consulting firm to provide legal services to the entire operations of CMST, including CMST headquarters in Lilongwe, Regional Medical Stores (RMS) in Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu.
The scope of assignment will cover:
*Carrying out an independent legal assignment of the effectiveness of the mandate, policies, procedures and standards in CMST for the financial, physical and information resource management and reporting on the same;
*Providing regulatory advice in the areas of procurement, warehousing and distribution of medicines and medical supplies;
*Providing guidance on employee relations issues, all labour law and other topics that may require legal guidance ensuring that the CMST is compliant with the law;
*Review legal contracts such as Lease Agreements, service contracts and provide guidance as requested from time to time;
*Litigate on behalf of CMST; and
*Provide miscellaneous legal counsel as needed.
The EOI demands that interested legal firms should have in their set up a team of legal experts with hands-on experience in legal assignments in the Sub-Saharan region.
“The team leader should possess a minimum qualification of a Bachelor’s Degree in law, a Master’s in law would be an added advantage and be a member of professional body in the legal field.
“The team leader should be allowed to practice in Malawi and be able to represent the Trust in a court of law. The team leader should also have at least ten (10) years relevant hands-on legal experience,” says the EOI.
It adds that the consultant firm must be accredited by the Malawi Law Commission and should be a firm with a good track record and duly incorporated under the laws of Malawi.
“Proposed let legal experts should have a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree plus should be members of professional bodies in the legal field, with at least 5 years experience in legal matters,” says the EOI.
However, some commentators on social media question why CMST is stressing that the consultant firm must be accredited by the Malawi Law Commission instead of the Malawi Law Society (MLS).
The legal minds that followed the advert believe CMST should have first consulted widely before stressing on the accreditation with Malawi Law Commission.
In a cynical comment, Steven Kayuni said: “It’s a choice they have made, some are free to pick the Malawi Human Rights Commission, you just can’t trust the Malawi Law Society these days. So they better have services from a law firm with accreditation elsewhere.”
Vitima Ndovi thinks CMST needs to sort out first things first before seeking legal services.
A ‘Legal Guidance Paper on Management of COVID-19 Disaster’, which MLS prepared — in reaction to some of the legal shortfalls it observed in government’s execution of some of the measures it carried out as COVID-19 preventive measures — contends that the laws of the Republic have given the mandate to the MLS and the Society of Doctors (through the Medical Council) to provide to the people of Malawi legal and health civil protection.
In the preamble in stressing this legal requirement, MLS reiterated that the legislature created it hierarchically as a supervisory authority under dual competent authority of both the Chief Justice and the Minister of Justice with functions akin to those of the controlling officer in the public service, unlike the Supervisory Authority of the Legal Education Council which falls under the Executive.
MLS straddles both the Judiciary and Executive and horizontally the legislature delegated its oversight and some legislative responsibilities for the enforcement and practice of the law to the Chief Justice, the Minister of Justice and the Malawi Law Society.
“In addition, the Malawi Law Society was specifically mandated to protect matters of public interest in Malawi,” says the MLS paper.
“The competent authority for delivery of health services is the Minister responsible for health but the Medical Council is the supervisory authority mandated to assist in promoting and improving the health of the population of Malawi; to control and exercise authority over training as well as the performance of practices of diagnosis, treatment or prevention of physical or mental diseases, illnesses or deficiencies.
“The Society of Medical Doctors has majority representation on the Medical Council. Both the Malawi Law Society and the Society of Medical Doctors have expressed interest to participate in or provide suggestions for civil protection in the declared disaster.
“In this they are not begging the Government or the Cabinet Committee but merely reminding the authorities that the two institutions are major and critical stakeholders with legal mandate in the provision of civil protection in the declared disaster,” says MLS in the paper.