Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have slammed Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) board’s decision to allow the statutory corporation’s Chief Executive Officer, Foster Mulumbe, back from a forced leave.
But government has dismissed sentiments linking it to Mulumbe’s recall, arguing that Admarc has a board which makes decisions independently.
Mulumbe was sent on forced leave to pave way for investigations into the procurement of maize from Zambia.
The sentiments have been raised following the Admarc board’s recent recall of Mulumbe.
Youth and Society Executive Director, Charles Kajoloweka, said in an interview that recalling Mulumbe smacks of “arrogance”.
“We believe that the decision to recall him was not made independently. They are just walking in the footsteps of President Peter Mutharika, who took a long time to act on the issue of former minister of Agriculture, George Chaponda, despite having all the information against him [Chaponda] in his file,” Kajoloweka said.
“Our expectation was that Mulumbe would be dismissed but what has happened is the opposite. We will take the next course of action. We are still working on it, so we are not revealing the plan at the moment,” added Kajoloweka, who has been leading a team of CSOs comprising Centre for the Development of People (Cedep), Human Rights Consultative Committee and Livingstonia Synod among others.
Corruption and Rights Watch Executive Director, Eliah Kamphinda- Banda, said it is unfortunate that the board of Admarc has decided to call back Mulumbe who, he said, was faulted by two separate inquiries.
“I believe that the President put in place a parallel inquiry to counter the joint parliamentary inquiry. If the two arms questioned the way some things were done, why not leave it in the hands of the Judiciary to do its job?” he questioned.
“I strongly recommend that the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) should do its job. Bear in mind that justice delayed is justice denied. Let people not speculate further. Instead, relevant authorities should take up the matter and arrive at a clear conclusion,” he said.
Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace National Secretary, Martin Chiphwanya, said it is important that the public should be told about the reasons for Mulumbe’ suspension, as well as whether the problem that led to his suspension has been rectified.
“If the outcome of the suspension is not known, the whole process may be brought into disrepute. The public needs to know whether internal investigations and hearing were done and what the outcomes were. Frankly speaking, in the absence of such clarity, the whole process gets discredited,” Chiphwanya said.
Chiphwanya said, following the release of reports by the two commissions of inquiries, one would not expect Mulumbe to be reinstated without a disciplinary hearing.
Meanwhile, Admarc Board Chairperson, James Masumbu, has said the board failed to meet this week (as indicated earlier) to deliberate on Mulumbe’s fate.
“The meeting didn’t take place this week because management was busy sorting out issues to do with the [industrial] strike issue. The issue is still on the table. It [the meeting] may take place next week or [during the] first week of April,” Masumbu said.
Last week, Masumbu told our sister paper, The Daily Times, that the board would first take action on Mulumbe and Director of Operations, Feckson Kantonga, before moving to others who might have been involved in shady deals.
Meanwhile, government spokesperson, Nicholas Dausi, has dismissed assertions that government had a hand in Admarc board’s decision to recall Mulumbe from forced leave.
“They are free to make decisions in terms of hiring and firing. I’m sure they have the right reasons for bringing Mulumbe back in office. The good thing is the board chair himself is a lawyer, who is conversant with the laws of the country. It’s not true that President Mutharika has given them orders to do so. Let’s be fair to the President please,” Dausi said.
Dausi noted that Malawians have adopted a counter-productive attitude boiling down to the fact that they are not happy to see Mulumbe in office.
“Bear in mind that this country has a constitution which protects everyone regardless of their political affiliations. Today it may be protecting Mulumbe tomorrow it may protect you and me…,” Dausi said.
Three weeks ago, ACB officers raided Mulumbe’s office and house as well as those of Kantonga, where they seized office equipment and files.
“Looking at the action by ACB officers recently, they focused on these two. We will also focus our disciplinary action on them before moving to anybody else implicated in the scam. I have not personally finished reading all the reports and the recommendations by the Commission [of Inquiry commissioned by President Peter Mutharika] and [Parliamentary] Joint Committee [of Public Accounts and Agriculture]. So, it’s too early to say how many more people will face disciplinary action,” Masumbu said, adding that Mulumbe’s return does not mean all is well.