Government fires MERA Board for incompetence in recruitment of its CEO Henry Kachaje

Following an inquiry made on February 18 by Parliamentary Public Appointments Committee made to Government as regards to the “poor handling of recruitment” of Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA) chief executive officer, Henry Kachaje, Government has fired the whole board of the Board of Directors.

A letter from Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Zanga-Zanga Chikhosi — dated February 18, 2022 — the Board’s removal from office is subject to inquiry and approval by the Public Appointments Committee in Pursuant to Section 8 of the Energy Regulation Act.

Zanga-Zanga Chikhosi

Chikhosi’s letter addressed to chairperson of Public Appointments Committee, the MERA Board is being “removed from office on the grounds of incompetence” and asks the Parliamentary Committee “to approve the removal of the Board after satisfying itself of its incompetence”.

The MERA Board was appointed in September 2020 by President Lazarus Chakwera that had Times Group Managing Director, Leonnard Chikadya as its chairperson followed by Thokozani Chimkono, Pemphero Likongwe, Lameck Ntchembe and Alexander Kalanda.

The ex-officios were Secretary for Energy, Director of Energy Affairs, Comptroller of Statutory Corporations, Secretary to the Treasury and MERA’s CEO.

Meanwhile, the High Court in Lilongwe was today, Wednesday (February 23) expected to hear a judicial review of Ombudsman’s ruling that faulted recruitment of Kachaje.

Ombudsman Grace Malera ruled last year that Kachaje’s appointment as MERA CEO was irregular and ordered its cancellation.

The cancellation was based on Section 126 of the Constitution that provides that ‘where the investigations of the Ombudsman reveal sufficient evidence to satisfy him or her that an injustice has been done, the Ombudsman shall direct that appropriate administrative action be taken to redress the grievance; cause the appropriate authority to ensure that there are, in future, reasonably practicable remedies to redress a grievance; and refer a case to the Director of Public Prosecutions with a recommendation for prosecution”.

But MERA took injunction against Ombudsman’s announcement of her determination — thus the judicial review in which the court was expected to scrutinize the processes leading to her determination.

Initially, MERA had obtained an injunction against the publication of the Ombudsman’s investigation report on the alleged flouting of recruitment procedures on Kachaje but a leaked report faulted the MERA Board for the unprocedural recruitment of Kachaje and ordered withdraw of his contract.

The Kachaje saga followed the resignation of MERA board member, Pempho Likongwe soon after Richard Chapweteka dragged Likongwe’s name in the Kachaje case during the hearing before the Ombudsman.

It came to the surface that Chapweteka — who had attended the interviews for the post of MERA CEO — had testified at the Ombudsman accusing Likongwe of revealing the results of the interviews before they were officially announced.

Before the results of the interviews were released, Chapweteka was appointed by President Lazarus Chakwera as Commissioner for Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), prompting Likongwe to inform Chapweteka not to turn down his appointment because he was not going to be picked as MERA CEO as he “had not performed well and was not going to be appointed”.

In his resignation letter to the Comptroller of Statutory Corporations dated November 15, 2021, Likongwe confessed that he did reveal that Chapweteka failed the interviews and had tried to save his ‘friend’ as at that time Chapweteka was jobless.

After several testimonies that the Ombudsman received that included Chapweteka’s, the Ombudsman ruled that Kachaje’s appointment as MERA CEO was irregular and ordered its cancellation.

But the Ombudsman’s Report also indicated that Chapweteka lied during the hearing where claimed that he was deliberately given low marks despite performing well during the interviews.

MERA’s Board plays a crucial role in determining fuel prices in the country under the recommendation of MERA’s Liquid Fuels & Gas Pricing Advisory Committee after evaluating trends on the Automatic Pricing Mechanism.

The Committee meets every first Tuesday of the month to review the Automatic Pricing Mechanism before submitting its recommendations to the MERA Board and within 48 hours, the Board is supposed to make a resolution on the Committee’s recommendations, as provided in the Liquid Fuels and Gas (production and supply) Regulations, 2009.

The Law provides for a Price Stabilisation Fund (PSF) at 5% of in-bond landed cost (IBLC) in which prices are reviewed upwards if the change in IBLC is above 5% and downwards if it is below 5%.

Then when the change is below 5%, the difference is channelled into the Price Stabilisation Fund to cushion fuel prices should there be an increase within the -5% benchmark.

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