Lawyer M’meta told to return K8.7m he earned as PPDA chair

Lawyer  Madalitso M’meta has been told to pay back K8.7 million which was spent on him in less than two years as Chairperson of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Asset Authority (PPDA) because he was illegally appointed by former Secretary to the President and Cabinet Lloyd Muhara.

This is contained in the report which Ombudsman Martha Chizuma (in the image accompanying this story) has released today. The report focuses on abuse and maladministration in the flawed procurement of South African lawyers by the Malawi Electoral Commission.

According to Chizuma, the Secretary to the Treasury (ST) is the one responsible for facilitating the appointment of members of the PPDA and receives nominations from organisations.

In the case of M’meta, a lawyer on the board, nomination was expected to come from the Malawi Law Society (MLS). Chizuma says in the report that M’meta was not nominated by the MLS.

“From the documentation provided to me it is clear that his name was only included after the then Chief Secretary Mr. Lloyd Muhara informed the Clerk of Parliament that Government did not recognize the appointment of members who were invited for confirmation hearings by PAC. It was after this that the Office of the Chief Secretary on 2nd October, 2018 through letter Ref. No. 14/01/22/VII informed the Clerk of Parliament that it had pleased his Excellency to appoint Mr. Madalitso M’meta, Mrs. Constance Musopole, Engineer Mr. Martin Mathias Chizalema, Mr. Amos Nyambo and Mr. Gospel Mavutula as members of the Authority,” reads part of the report.

Chizuma says she does not believe M’meta’s argument that he did not know that his appointment breached the law; and that he was not aware that the MLS had raised the issue of his nomination with the Attorney General or that a whistleblower from his own fraternity had raised the issue of his nomination with Parliament months later.

“He was aware of all this but he simply did not care and continued to illegally discharge functions of the Board of PPDA and draw from public funds when he did not have the legal mandate to be so functioning as Board member and drawing such funds,” says Chizuma in the report.

She argues that at the time of appointment in 2018, M’meta had been standing at the bar for thirteen years and therefore one would have expected him to have queried about his appointment after his appointment came into question.

“To ensure justice for all this, I direct that Mr. M’meta should reimburse the People of Malawi through the PPDA the sum of MK 8, 757,557.07 which is the amount that according to the PPDA was expended on Mr. M’meta in terms of Airtime, sitting allowances, T&T allowances and conference and accommodation for the period that he served on the PPDA Board between November 2018 to June 2020. This should be done and proof of the same should be furnished to my office by Mr. M’meta and the PPDA by the 28th May, 2021.

During his illegal time as PPDA chairperson, M’meta gave a ‘no objection’ to MEC’s flawed procurement of South African lawyers for the elections appeal case.

He did this after he had represented Former President Peter Mutharika in the same case when it was at the Constitutional Court. If MEC had won the appeal case, then Mutharika’s victory in the 2019 elections would have been upheld.

Chizuma said M’meta found himself in a conflict of interest situation as his private interests conflicted with his public duties as Chairperson of the Board of PPDA.

“The best he ought to have done was to recuse himself from this meeting and let other Board members deliberate and decide on the issue. At the very least he ought to have declared his interest in this matter. He did none of that,” said Chizuma

On Muhara’s conduct in the illegal appointment of M’meta, Chizuma said Muhara being a lawyer and judge of the High Court serving in that highest office in public service ought to have known and done better.

Chizuma has since directed the Judicial Service Commission in accordance with its powers to deliberate and determine on the suitability and competency of Justice Lloyd Muhara to hold the position of a judge of the High Court.

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