The MERA Kachaje-gate has cost one board member his position at the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA).
Board Member, Counsel Pempho Likongwe, has resigned after the Ombudsman report faulted the MERA board over the hiring of Henry Kachaje as MERA chief executive officer.
Likongwe in the Ombudsman report was also faulted for acting unethically by telling one candidate, Richard Chapweteka, that he had failed the interviews before results were released.
“I believe that the only honourable thing to do for my indiscretion of telling Mr Chapweteka that he might not be the successful candidate is to resign from the board. I am therefore resigning as a board member of MERA with immediate effect,” said Likongwe in a letter to the Comptroller of Statutory Corporations.
The Ombudsman’s investigation was conducted following two complaints, one of which was from Chapweteka who alleged that he suffered injustice in the manner in which the MERA board conducted the recruitment process for the position of CEO.
He also complained that he was deliberately given low marks despite performing well during the interviews as the board was under the impression that he was an anointed candidate. He further claimed that the person who emerged successful, Kachaje, was not a holder of a master’s degree.
During the Ombudsman probe, Chapweteka stated that he called Mr. Likongwe twice to get information about the interview results and Likongwe had informed him that he did not know anything yet.
He further confirmed that he sent Mr. Likongwe WhatsApp messages asking him the likely outcome of the interview results, in particular whether he was in or not.
In his letter, Likongwe said Chapweteka is his friend as they worked together during the 2019 presidential elections case in which Chapweteka was a witness.
Likongwe noted that in June, after the MERA interviews had been conducted two months earlier, Chapweteka was appointed as commissioner of the Malawi Electoral Commission.
Likongwe heard that Chapweteka planned to reject the position as he (Chapweteka) expected to be successful for the MERA role.
“I knew that Chapweteka was jobless at the time and needed a job to help him financially. And at the same time, I knew from my board membership at MERA that Chapweteka had not performed well in the interviews for MERA CEO and was not going to be appointed.
“As a Christian, I saw that my brother was on the verge of making a big blunder that would hurt him financially for many years to come. I had in my hands the power to help my brother by advising him to accept the appointment as MEC commissioner,” said Likongwe.
He added that he then contacted Chapweteka and advised him that rejecting the MEC role would embarrass the president and he also tipped Chapweteka that he may not be successful in the MERA interviews.
“Mr Chapweteka took my advice and he changed his decision and accepted appointment as MEC commissioner. He is reaping benefits of my advice. However, he decided to report me to the Ombudsman,” said Likongwe.
Likongwe admitted that he did wrong in informing Chapweteka about the interview results before they were formally released. He then apologised to President Lazarus Chakwera, the Public Account Committee, MERA chairman and MERA board member for letting them down.