Following a request by Mzuzu-based civil society organisation Youth and Society (YAS), the Ombudsman has launched investigations into Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) procurement of legal services of South Africa-based law firm—Mboweni Maluleke Inc Attorneys—to defend the case in the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal at a contract sum of $788 500 (about K600 million).
YAS moved the Ombudsman to investigate Attorney General (AG) Kalekeni Kaphale’s alleged abuse of power and maladministration in engaging South African lawyers to represent MEC.
Ombudsman Martha Chizuma has since asked Kaphale and the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA) to submit responses and documentation on the matter, respectively, by June 8 2020.
Chizuma has also asked PPDA director general Ellias Hausi to provide supporting documents on the procurement of services for the said lawyers.
Section 120 (1) of the Constitution empowers the Ombudsman to investigate any and all cases where it is alleged that a person has suffered injustice and where it does not appear that there is any remedy reasonably available by way of proceedings in a court or by way of appeal from a court or where there is no other practicable remedy
YAS executive director Charles Kajoloweka complained to Ombudsman that no open tender for legal services is known to have been floated in accordance with Section 37 of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Asset Act (PPDA) and that neither does the procurement of the legal services in question qualify for exemptions of open tendering in terms of Section 37 of the PPDPA Act as the subject matter is neither sensitive in nature nor to do with national security.
Kajoloweka claims he has information that on 20 February 2020, David Matumika Banda, who is the Director of Legal Services for EC, prepared and filed skeleton arguments for the appeal for which the foreign legal services had been procured while the hearing of the appeal was held on 15 April 2020.
This suggests that all the requisite procedures had been satisfied at this juncture.
Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda denied the lawyers’ request to practise in Malawi because they were not physically present during their hearing.