K750 million mess
  • lawyer signed consent on behalf of AG
  • payment shocked court officials
  • AG authorized without a legal opinion

By Golden Matonga, Investigative Journalist

There is more controversy emerging in the 750 million Kwacha pay out to former principal secretary Christopher Makileni. Apparently PIJ can reveal that it was negotiated by serving middle ranked Office of President and Cabinet (OPC) and eventually signed by a state advocate in fragrant violation of the law.

When the settlement was taken to the Industrial Relations Court for consent—officials at the court were shocked by the figures and also immediately noticed that the Attorney General’s signature was different to the normal well-known signature – they phoned the Attorney to confirm the validity of the agreement, sources close to the matter speaking both on record and off record have confirmed the development.

Chikosa Silungwe – Malawi’s Attorney General

The Attorney General Chikosa Silungwe, however, after asking the court to resend the file on the matter to his office for approval, eventually wrote the court his approval. It’s not clear what the Attorney General did administratively on the matter or what specific legal implications on the consent are.

The Attorney General told PIJ he did not sign the consent order but fell short of mentioning the officer who signed the consent order on his behalf and the reasons.

But PIJ has combed through troves of documents related to the matter. The signature which was signed on the consent agreement draws strong resemblance to the signature of a lawyer in the Attorney General’s office, Senior State Advocate Frank Matola who throughout the cycle of the case has been representing the Attorney General on the matter.

When quizzed on the matter yesterday, Matola said the signature was not his.

“No, it’s not my signature,” said Matola before saying he cannot comment further on the matter.

While Makileni’s benefits have prompted a public outrage, sources at court and in government say the sums were questionable from the moment that they were agreed upon and that the Attorney General, too, upon being alerted by the courts, should have acted on the issue.

According to the Registrar of Industrial Relations Court at Lilongwe Registry, Howard Pemba, speaking in an interview, the court was moved to speak to the Attorney General after noting both the sums of the of the settlement and the purported signature of the Attorney General.

“We asked if he was aware of the consent order figures because the figures were somehow suspicious to us, so we called whether he could confirm that he had originated it,” said Pemba.    

The Attorney General subsequently authorized the payment but immediately OPC new leadership—just like the IRC officials and later the public—raised eyebrows and refused to authorize payment.

Janet Banda – Deputy Secretary to President

Makileni sued Secretary to President and Cabinet (SPC) Zangazanga Chikhosi as well as his Deputy Janet Banda in their personal capacity.

In a letter titled RE: IRC Matter No55/2015: Christopher Makileni vs Attorney General, dated 1st September 2020, the OPC –through Deputy Secretary to President Dr. Janet Banda— requested the Attorney General to submit a legal opinion on the matter.

 “We refer to the above matter. Kindly avail to us a legal opinion that led to the signing of a consent judgment to retire Mr. Makileni at age of 60 before he attained the age. And whether other options were explored. We will appreciate your expedited response to map the way forward,” wrote Banda.

According to sources at OPC, Silungwe, to date, has not provided the legal opinion.

Silungwe did not pick up his phone when contacted for comment yesterday.

There is a good reason why the figures on the consent orders raises questions—according to documents on the court file, Makileni was still on government payroll and his salary K950 000 a month.

He was also entitled to extra K500 000 per month for fuel and K35 000 airtime. He was still benefiting from all these entitlements and had an official vehicle when he sued government for constructive dismissal.

The controversial settlement signed by Attorney General included a pension amount of K216 635 824, compensation for loss of use of motor vehicle amounting to K205 500 000 salaries amounting to K269 700 000 fuel amounting to K63 000 000.00 making a total of K754 835 824 (seventy hundred and thirty-five thousand eight hundred and twenty-four thousand and fourteen tambala). 

If Makileni was to be paid his salary for 27 months, he would have been entitled to 25 650 000 in salaries but the settlement indicates that he was to receive K269 700 000.

Four fuel, granted that the Makileni who would be retired would be entitled to fuel, for 27 months his 500 000-fuel allocation in seven years translated to `K13 500 00. The consent order granted Makileni K63 000 000.

According to his arguments, on 28th May 2014, without being accorded an opportunity to be heard, he was advised by the then Chief Secretary Hannah Ndilowe, allegedly, “that she had been advised by the new President Professor Peter Mutharika to remove him Ministry of Local Government and finally from civil service.”  

“She further advised the Applicant that since there was no valid reason for terminating service, she had decided to post him to Office of President and Cabinet as Principal Secretary responsible for special duties,” reads part of the arguments.

Makileni, who joined the civil service as a DC for Kasungu in 2001, would later file at the Industrial Relations Court for damages claiming the move amounted to constructive dismissal.    

According to minutes of an OPC and Attorney General representatives held in 9th April 2020—attended by Rashid Ntelela (Director of Administration OPC), Makileni (described as Principal Secretary Special Duties), Mr E T Wochi (Director of Human Resources at OPC) and Frank Matola (Senior State Advocate Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs), the meeting had no agenda “as the meeting required Makileni to outline his proposal with regard to issue at hand.”

Makileni told the meeting he wanted to understand better a previous offer from the government to retire him from office as he was only 53 years old and had only served 18 years in civil service.

The meeting at the end agreed on the following:

  1. that Makileni should formally request for retirement in writing based on outcomes of the discussions contained in the minutes
  2. that Makileni will be retired at 60 years of age
  3. That Makileni will be paid be monthly pension payments
  4. That Makileni will be given a TX Prado or any vehicle of comparable status which will be allowed to buy using the Principal Secretaries Vehicle Purchase Scheme.  

Makileni’s salaries and fuel figures that he was earning were multiplied by 84 months which are number of months for the period that government was supposed to still employ him which still makes the current figures suspicious although the questions still has to be whether a retired person can be paid fuel, airtime, etc.

Malawi President uses a Lexus vehicle which cost less than 100 million yet Makileni who already had an official TX was being allowed to be paid extra 200 million for a new vehicle.

As way forward, Makileni committed to request for a discharge of the matter before the court.

On the 22nd July 2020, the consent order was signed in Court, bearing names of the Attorney General and Maulidi and Company, lawyers representing Makileni.

Zangazanga Chikhosi – Secretary to the President and Cabinet

Christopher Makileni has since filed for ‘contempt of court’ against Attorney General (AG) Chikosa Silungwe, Secretary to the President and Cabinet Zangazanga Chikhosi, and Deputy Secretary to the President and Cabinet Janet Banda, saying they are not paying the consent order which government and Makileni agreed on.

Government is challenging ‘contempt of court’ charges.