At least 28 employees have been dismissed from the Green Belt Authority (GBA) following a personnel audit that established irregular recruitment, which some of the affected members of staff are protesting.
While the board says the exercise was smooth and professional, seven of the affected members of staff we have spoken to have indicated that they are challenging the board’s decision in court.
In an interview, one of the affected staff George Matipwiri, who was human resource and administration manager, said he finds the whole exercise suspicious.
He was disengaged for lacking requisite qualifications and experience at the time of the interviews.
Matipwiri claims the recruitment documents of his case reveal disparities between the disengagement letter, personnel audit report and the advert—which he has based his court case.
The disengagement letter, signed by GBA board chairperson Peter Kossamu and dated October 18 2022, states that Matipwiri did not have the required post-qualification experience.
“You did not meet the minimum requirements at the time of the interviews. You did not have a master’s degree. Although you had a bachelor’s degree, you did not meet the 10 years post qualification experience as your qualification was obtained in 2017, therefore, you should not have been shortlisted,” it reads in part.
The advert for this post, published in The Nation of May 14 2020, shows that the requirements for the position was a master’s degree in human resource management, business administration or public administration plus six years post qualification experience at senior management level.
“Those with degree in human resource management plus a minimum of 10 years’ experience may be considered,” reads the advert.
According to employment records at the time of the interviews, Matipwiri held a 2017 bachelor of arts in human resource from University of Malawi (Unima), diploma in Law obtained in 2013 from Unima and diploma in business and industrial administration administered in 2003 by the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry Examination Board.
Matipwiri’s CV indicates that since 2003 he worked in human resources, including at managerial level in several organisations and was once Employers Consultative Association of Malawi president.
Another affected employee, Zione Themba, while stating that she was handpicked on her position, said she does not understand why she should be penalised when this was the way people were recruited since GBA was just an initiative under the Office of President and Cabinet (OPC).
She worked as senior human resource and administrative officer.
Three drivers have also been disengaged for holding a Junior Certificate of Education (JCE)as the highest qualification when the post requires an Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) holder.
Surprisingly, in a new call for application for drivers, the JCE requirement still stands.
“JCE plus a clean driving licence, valid PSV driving licence and a defensive certificate with at least five years relevant experience. Those with MSCE will have an added advantage,” reads the requirements for the post of driver as captured in the advert.
In the personnel audit report, some officers with similar issues have been maintained.
For example, the audit shows that an accounts officer applied for a position of accounts assistant for which he was interviewed.
Further to this, he was never declared the successful candidate after interviews and only one person, out of a panel of five, signed the interview report which was not dated.
This is despite the audit recommending that: “Interview report should be signed. Once signed, the officer should revert back to the position of accounts assistant. The position of accounts officer should be filled appropriately”.
Another staff member who has been maintained is Felix Minjale, Nchalo GBI assistant general manager.
According to the audit, there was no shortlisting report, the panel did not sign the interview report neither was there an advert available. But he has been maintained with a call for management to “provide evidence of the advert and shortlisting failing which, the post will be filled appropriately”.
The board chairperson has signed the disengagement letters for all employees, and adverts calling for fresh applications have his personal e-mail address, contrary to provisions of GBA condition of service.
“The chairperson or his designated representative shall sign the letter of offer of employment if the appointment is for a position at grade B and above.
“The chief executive officer or his representative shall sign if the offer is for a post in the lower grades,” reads article 2.2.3 of GBA condition of service.
Kossamu said he signed the letters because the audit was sanctioned by the board and sees no problem in having his personal email address as part of the application, arguing that the audit has its own terms of reference and political affiliation was not part of it.
He said: “Pursuant to Section 43 of the Constitution, each individual was given seven days within which to respond and raise issues if any, nine individuals responded and the board reviewed their complaints and replied to them.”
But an insider has indicated that the nine were not dismissed; hence, making their engagement much easier while the rest were disengaged and asked to raise issues with the company secretary on the board’s decision.
In a memo dated November 4 2022, all disengaged staff are advised not to report to GBA offices nor engage in related activities from Monday November 7 2022.
They were also asked to do handovers by 4PM on the day of the notice.
Asked how GBA is surviving with a bulk of employees dismissed, Kossamu said they have engaged people on secondment who have filled some key positions and they are “moving forward without any problems”.
The audit report has recommended that individuals who were engaged irregularly should be disengaged without compensation as one cannot have a legitimate expectation over an illegality.
But even with this position, we have seen documents on possible terminal benefits for all affected employees.
“Just in case someone sues us, what the auditors did was to come up with figures in advance for terminal benefits…We had people from the Ministry of Labour who had used their expertise to come up with what one would get in case there would be need to pay someone,” said Kossamu.
In separate interviews, two human resource managers in the public service faulted the arrangement at GBA where the board chair signed disengagement letters for grades lower than B, arguing that this amounts to usurping the CEO’s powers.
The two officials, who shared their insights off the record, also found it strange that the board chairperson’s email address was part of the application process, saying this would be better handled by management, especially for positions below director.
With the 28 employees out, the GBA now has 15 staff members and adverts have already been issued to fill vacancies to avoid disruption of operations.
The personnel audit is a response from a call from the Public Appointments Committee of Parliament which had raised issues with recruitment at GBA following the 2019/2020 national audit report.