Leonnard Chikadya, MERA Board chairperson
* MERA is embroiled in controversy that sorrounds appointment of Henry Kachaje as MERA’s CEO
* The controversy is exacerbated after one MERA Board member, Pempho Likongwe tendered resignation
* After admitting being involved in unethical conduct during the interviews of the MERA CEO
By Duncan Mlanjira
National Anti-Corruption Alliance — a grouping of Livingstonia Synod of Church of Central African Presbyterian (CCAP), Youth Society (YAS), Malawi Law Society and Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) — is demanding for the dissolution and replacement of the whole Malawi Energy and Regulatory Authority (MERA) board.
MERA is embroiled in controversy that sorrounds Henry Kachaje, whose appointment as MERA’s CEO was faulted by the Ombudsman.
In a statement issued by the Alliance’s chairperson, Moses Mkandawire says they have made the demands following MERA’s Board’s failure “to conduct the recruitment of a new CEO through due process and with transparency, as highlighted in the leaked Ombudsman’s report”.
The controversy also followed the resignation of one MERA Board member, Pempho Likongwe after admitting being involved in unethical conduct during the interviews of the MERA CEO.
The Alliance contends that the unethical conduct of Likongwe during the process of recruiting the embattled CEO is “a warning of wider personal misconduct within the board”.
And the Alliance also MERA’s seeking of a High Court injunction on the Ombudsman, “while being their legal right, showed an unwillingness to be open to public scrutiny and accountability”.
The Alliance also faults MERA on “failure to ensure fuel imports are facilitated within a fair and efficient regulatory framework, therefore creating opportunities for corrupt practices”.
“We join those concerned citizens and institutions in calling for decisive action,” says the statement. “The board is responsible for the governance, oversight and strategic leadership of MERA.
“These are essential functions if the institution is to effectively perform its regulatory function. As presently constituted, the board has not displayed competence or credibility and as such they do not have the trust of Malawians.”
The Alliance maintains that “this is a key time for Malawi’s energy sector with key infrastructure projects coming online, fuel prices rising and increasing pressure to build our energy infrastructure”.
“Citizens deserve a regulatory authority to ensure these developments happen efficiently, fairly, and free from the abuse and corruption that has plagued our public institutions.
“Under the leadership of the present board, Malawians cannot have such confidence.
“The decisions made by MERA directly affect the livelihoods of ordinary Malawians. They make difficult decisions that might be unpopular, but should always be trustworthy. We do not have that reassurance with the present board.”
While welcoming the resignation of Likongwe, the Alliance believe that the position of the Board — chaired by Times Group’s Managing Director, Leonnard Chikadya — in its entirety is now untenable.
Other members of the Board are Thokozani Chimkono, Lameck Ntchembe and Alexandr Kalanda while ex-officios are Secretary for Energy, Director of Energy Affairs, Comptroller of Statutory Corporations, Secretary to the Treasury and MERA’s Chief Executive Officer.
“Furthermore, it should not be for individual board members to choose whether to resign, rather appointing authority must act to remove this ill-selected board.
“Decisive action is needed to form a new board that is competent for the task, above repute and able to command the trust of Malawian in a key sector for our national development,” says the Alliance.
In his resignation letter to the Comptroller of Statutory Corporations dated November 15, 2021, Likongwe said his decision revolves around Richard Chapweteka, who dragged Likongwe’s name in the Kachaje case during the hearing before the Ombudsman.
He revealed that after Chapweteka attended interviews for the post of MERA CEO he was then appointed by President Lazarus Chakwera as Commissioner for Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) before the results of the MERA interviews were released.
When Likongwe heard that Chapweteka intended to turn down his appointment as MEC Commissioner, believing he would be picked for the post of MERA CEO, Likongwe took upon himself to inform Chapweteka to accept the MEC post be he might be chosen for the MERA post.
Chapweteka took the advice but as soon as Kachale alleged irregular appointment was reported to the Ombudsman, Chapweteka revealed that Likongwe divulged an insider information that he was approached that he had failed the interviews.
In his resignation, Likongwe confessed that what he did was wrong “sincerely regret this”, saying “whilst I was driven by my Christian values, I realize that legally I was not supposed to do that”.