Social Action for Development (SAfD) has demanded the resignation of Colleen Zamba as Secretary to the President & Cabinet (SPC) over the manner she handled the dismissal of Helen Buluma as acting chief executive officer (CEO) of National Oil Company of Malawi (NOCMA).
And if Zamba does not adhere to its call for her resignation — without giving a specific deadline — President Lazarus Chakwera should fire her for displaying “significant and colossal disregard to the law, due diligence and proper procedure in applying herself and the weight of her office” in the manner she handled Buluma’s dismissal
The executive director of civil society organisation, Isaac Cheke Ziba, also contends that the acting CEO resigned — not fired.
First to go viral of social media was Buluma resignation letter dated November 14 and hours letter was a letter from Zamba — as NOCMA Board chairperson — terminating her employment contact.
Zamba letter, dated November 15, cited that the contract termination was based on the determination made by the Ombudsman that ordered the NOCMA Board to relieve her of duties.
Zamba said after the Board wrote to the Ombudsman on October 31 objecting to her determination to effect the decision, they obtained an alternative legal advice from the Attorney General, who advised them that they were “compelled to undertake the determination even if disagreed”.
“Any review rights are the domain of the Courts,” Zamba said in her letter. “Consequently, I regret to inform you that you have been relieved from your duties, effective immediately in compliance with the Ombudsman’s determination.”
Zamba’s letter was copied to herself as SPC, Secretary for Energy and Comptroller of Statutory Corporations.
But SAfD maintains Zamba’s position as SPC “has become untenable” and thus demands “she resigns from her office with immediate effect to pave way for thorough independent contestation of the allegations” which SAfD leveled against her, saying “added to all the farce around [Buluma], Zamba seems to preside over a public and civil service that is, hardly, working for transparency, accountability, efficiency and effectiveness— to serve Malawians truly and well”.
SAfD accuses Zamba of “recklessness” in the way she handled a determination by the Ombudsman that nullified Buluma from holding the position of acting CEO at NOCMA, alleging that Zamba “anarchically responded to the Ombudsman with a letter instead of taking recourse to the courts”.
The CSO seems to take cognizance that Zamba, in her position as chairperson of the Board of NOCMA, first did adhere to the Ombudsman’s determination by “lawlessly defending Buluma against the determination by a constitutional office of the Ombudsman, but she went ahead to have Buluma fired.
“In her legally futile response to the Ombudsman, chastised by both the Attorney General and the Law Society of Malawi, we also learnt from the Ombudsman’s response to the SPC [that] Zamba was referring to a non-existent NOCMA Board.
“Further, and in the first place, she seems to have jumped the office of the Attorney General before she wrote to the Ombudsman.”
In her letter, Buluma accused the NOCMA Board chairperson and Secretary for Energy of flouting energy laws as reason for tendering resignation, citing the Public Finance Act 2022; Public Procurement & Disposal Act and other legal, regulatory and corporate governance frameworks “which NOCMA, as a public company is supposed to adhere to”.
Addressed to Zamba as NOCMA Board chairperson and also copied to the Office of the President & Cabinet (OPC) and Secretary for Energy — as well as Secretary to Treasury — Buluma contended that her decision had been reached “after serious consideration and taking into account the immense pressure” that she faced over the past recent months from Zamba, Secretary for Energy, Alfonso Chikuni and others “to bring new suppliers through dubious means and in some instances expensive fuel financiers”.
She mentioned the suppliers as follows:
* Confluence Asset Management Holding PTE Limited—US$250 million fuel financing;
* 700SA Oil & Gas—supply of 40,000MT monthly each product (value US$40 million per month;
* GY & Sons Holdings—supply of 40,000MT of both diesel and petrol;
* Dalitso General Dealers and “others which the PS responsible for Energy solicited”.
She indicated that on numerous occasions, she provided Zamba on the due processes to be followed in fuel procurement but despite this Buluma continues “to receive relentless pressure to proceed outside the normal procurement procedures and more recently taking advantage of fuel whortages as an excuse to enter into rushed agreements”.
Buluma disclosed that on Sunday, November 13, the PS for Energy called for a meeting chaired by Zamba in the OPC boardroom “whose main agenda was to discuss an expression of interest from GY & Sons to supply fuel to NOCMA and the MERA resolution which was not to declare a fuel supply emergency”.
She said the meeting pushed directives for NOCMA management “to quickly publish a request for proposal (RFP) to include all the above unsolicited expressions of interest for fuel supply especially GY & Sons.
MERA management was directed “to influence its Board to rescind its earlier decision not to declare a fuel emergency”, saying the PS for Energy should gazette the situation “for the sole reason that this would open the opportunity for importers to take on more suppliers”.
NOCMA was to “proceed to do an RFP and send to all the above unsolicited suppliers and those that the PS would provide to normalize such procurements”.
Buluma accused the Board that this is despite providing assurance by herself and NOCMA Director of operations “that strategies were in place to deal with the fuel shortages” and that NOCMA was “coordinating well with MERA and other stakeholders, including the Reserve Bank of Malawi, to deal with the fuel shortages”.
“We also stressed the fact that fuel shortages that were being experienced were not due to lack of product from the current suppliers, but challenges in accessing foreign exchange and that engaging new suppliers at this points would not solve the challenges.”
Thus she accuse the Board and the PS that the orders she and her management team were receiving “directly undermine the Public Finance Act 2022; Public Procurement & Disposal Act and other legal, regulatory and corporate governance frameworks”.
Meanwhile, even though she resigned and/or dismissed as per the directive of the Ombusdman, Buluma was summoned by Public Appointments Committee of Parliament where she made further allegations on Zamba on flouting energy laws.
However, the Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda has faulted the Public Appointments Committee for summoning Buluma, saying the committee overstepped its mandate since that falls under the mandate of the Legal Affairs Committee.
However, Peter Dimba — chairperson of the Legal Affairs Committee of the august House — told Nyasa Times that their previous interest in Buluma’s matter was on the noncompliance of the Ombudsman’s determination for NOCMA Board to fire her on grounds that she was illegally recruited on the position.
Dimba told Nyasa Times said now that Buluma is no longer at the helm of the country’s oil company, thus the committee has nothing to pursue.
Meanwhile, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) says it has taken up the allegations against Zamba for investigations.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :