The High Court has convicted two principal secretaries (PSs) for contempt of court for failing to comply with a court order to issue public apologies for a flawed procurement and disposal of tractors bought with borrowed funds.
Delivering a ruling on Thursday, judge Charles Mkandawire said he found PS for Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Grey Nyandule Phiri and Secretary to the Treasury Cliff Chiunda guilty for disrespecting a Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal order in relation to the procurement and disposal of farm equipment bought with a $50 million (about K37 billion) loan from India in 2011.
In mitigation, lawyers for the two PSs Chancy Gondwe requested the court to give Chiunda and Nyandule-Phiri appropriate punishment as prescribed in the rules and not custodial sentence.
Gondwe pleaded for a lenient sentence saying the two are advanced in age, have dedicatively served government for many years and that they have never committed any offence before.
Judge Mkandawire has since been adjourned to next week for sentencing the duo.
The two can be sentenced to prison, made to pay a fine or given a suspended sentence, depending on the mitigating factors.
It could also mean loss of their jobs.
According to private practice lawyer Justin Dzonzi, when one is convicted of contempt of court in the criminal case, then it automatically follows that criminal sanctions will have to come
“. In this case, one could be fined or imprisoned and obviously that conviction alone is a criminal record and under the Public Service Act, that might be a ground for disciplinary action.
“But when the conviction leads to a civil case, then you might require perhaps restitution and punishment by way of ordering them to pay damages and telling them to do certain things. But again, in my view, this could also be ground for further sanctions such as dismissal,” Dzonzi said.
The farm equipment was purchased using part of the $50 million line of credit from Export-Import Bank of India with the intention to mechanise agriculture in the country.
The farm machinery in question included 100 tractors and 144 maize shellers. In total, 177 tractors were bought for distribution to agriculture development divisions (ADDs) to enable poor smallholder farmers graduate to mechanisation by hiring the equipment. However, only 77 tractors were distributed to ADDs while 100 were sold.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :