AG Kaphale under probe over hiring of South African lawyers

The Office of the Ombudsman in Malawi has launched investigations into Attorney General (AG) Kalekeni Kaphale’s alleged maladministration and abuse of power in the procurement of two South African lawyers for the elections case.

Ombudsman Martha Chizuma wrote Kaphale on 19 May informing him of the investigations which will focus on six alleged acts of abuse of power.

Kaphale represented Malawi Electoral Commission in the elections case in which the Constitutional Court nullified the 2019 presidential elections. In its ruling, the court also barred the AG from representing MEC in the case.

When MEC appealed to the Supreme Court, the commission hired Dumisa Buhle Ntsebeza and Elizabeth Makhanani Baloyi Mere at a fee of $788, 500 (K580 million). But the Supreme Court of Appeal rejected the lawyers as they could come into the country due to travel restrictions.

On April 14, Youth and Society complained to the Ombudsman that Kaphale abused his power in the hiring of the South African lawyers.

In her letter to the AG, Chizuma said the Ombudsman is investigating Kaphale on six acts.

The first act is that Kaphale acted irregularly by continuing to assist MEC in the procurement of new lawyers for the appeal case.

The second act is that Kaphale flouted provisions of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act (PPDPA) by not floating an open tender for procurement of legal services during the hiring of the South African lawyers.

Kaphale is also being accused of failing to ensure that the Anti-Corruption Bureau vetted the single sourcing as required by the law and acting unreasonably  by procuring the lawyers at a fee which is unjustified.

Reads the letter on the fifth act: “That you acted illegally, improperly and irregularly by bringing the said South African lawyers into the country 8 March, 2020 before the procurement had been finalized on 10 March, 2020.”

Another complaint is that Kaphale received   legal fees from MEC for representing the commission in the elections case.

Chizuma in the letter asked Kaphale to provide responses on the allegations of the legal fees and the legal basis.

“In addition, you will provide your comments on the genesis of the procurement of the legal services, the procedures which were followed, and any form of payments that were made during the procurement and engaging on the lawyers and also their legal fees,” she said.

The Attorney General has been given up to June 8 to provide a response on the allegations.

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