Malawi’s most celebrated economist in the country, who announced his retirement as manager of Press Corporation Limited (PCL), Dr Mathews Chikaonda, is facing condemnation from the Peter Mutharika administration accusing him of unprofessionally managing PCL.
Ironically, the Peter Mutharika government is trying to remove the concocted log in Chikaonda’s eye leaving theirs; for if truth be told, Mutharika’s performance as president of this country leaves a lot to be desired. Unless one is close to the powers that be but the undisputable fact is that Mutharika has brought more misery to Malawians.
Let us not be afraid to speak the painful truth, Mutharika is an undoubted failure and that his presidency is a nightmare to the citizens of Malawi.
Now, instead of concentrating on proving to Malawians that he is not an ‘accidental’ president, he is busy trying to paint others as agents of the devil and himself as an angel.
I was fascinated to read a press release of the accusations as poured on Dr Chikaonda and ladies and gentlemen, I hereby bring to you the accusations as below.
On 17 March, 2016, Ministry of Ministry of Information, Tourism and Civic Education which is currently named Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology released a press statement, titled ‘real mess at Press Corporation Has nothing to do with DPP Gurus’.
For starters; Press Corporation Limited is a public company incorporated in Malawi, under the Companies Act 1984; and is listed on the Malawi Stock Exchange and on the London Stock Exchange as a global depository receipt.
Being the largest holding company in Malawi, Press Corporation has interests in different sectors of the Malawi economy including: financial services, telecommunications, food and beverages, energy and consumer goods.
The Press Statement, which the then Minister of Information Jappie Mhango signed was in response to the one of the Malawi’s local weekly, Malawi News.
Most Malawians were puzzled with the tone contained in the statement but as the adage goes, there is no smoke without fire.
In the statement, Government took a swipe at PCL management for messing up things at the company.
“Following our investigations, we have established that it is in fact, the conduct and performance of some Senior Management themselves that have brought a mess at PCL, and not the presence of any DPP functionaries on the PCL Board.” Reads thestatement in part.
In the statement Government accused the appointment of the current Group Chief Executive Officer, Matthews Chikaonda saying his appointment did not go through the board nor through proper legal channels.
“Despite serious reservations from Press Trustees at that time, he was just hand-picked by the then President (Bakili Muluzi) and imposed on the Board as the GCE of PCL. He has had three times three-year contracts and a final five-year contract approved by the Board.
This is against good corporate governance as we know it,” reads the statement.
In the same statement Government accused Chikaonda that in May 2014, he signed an internal Memo alleging that the Board had approved a car allowance of MK6, 312, 572 every month for himself and other officers as follows:
1. Exco – MK4,708,446
2. General Managers – MK3,351,109
3. Senior Managers – MK2,610,743
4. Other Managers – MK1,993,772
“There is no Board Meeting whose Minutes can confirm approvals for such car allowances. These finance manoeuvres are therefore not just obscene, but are also illegal and criminal conduct.”
In the same Memo, Government accused Chikaonda of closing eleven Press companies. These were:
1. Press Poultry
2. Central Poultry
3. Hardware and General Dealers
4. Press Furniture and Joinery
5. Enterprise Containers
6. Malawi Pharmacies Limited
7. McConnell and Company
8. Tambala Food Products
9. Press Bakeries
1. Press Transport, and
1. PGI Industries
According to the statement Government also accused Chikonda of failing to fulfill the following projects;
1. Tourism Cape Maclear Resort
2. Energy-Solar and Hydropower
3. PCL Head Office at Top Mandala
4. PTC Zambia Operations
5. Chapima Heights Residential Project
6. Ethanol Flex Vehicles
7. Maldeco Expansion (new fishing
The current remaining units of PCL include the following, some of which have problems or outstanding issues:
1. National Bank
2. TNM Ltd
3. Ethanol Company
4. PUMA Energy Ltd and
5. MacSteel Ltd
6. BBGL Carlsberg Malawi Ltd (PCL lost majority shareholding)
7. Press Properties (there are so many uncertainties)
8. Maldeco (technically insolvent)
9. Press Cane Ltd (ownership battle in court)
10. MTL (technically insolvent)
11. PTC (technically insolvent)
Only the top five have no problems, but the bottom six have one major challenge or other. Some of them are technically insolvent, while others have legal ownership challenges.
Intervention of the attorney general
Meanwhile the Attorney General has written Chikaonda demanding information in the following areas
1. Executive packages for top Management in the last five years.
2. Bonus payments paid to top Management in the past five years.
3. The Dividend Payment Policy. The Policy requires that 35% of
profits after tax should be paid to shareholders.
However, Management has been paying only 16% or less.
4. Explanation on how Government shareholding was diluted from 49% to 44.45%.
But our inquest on the matter indicate that up to now no response has been given to Government as demanded.
When an inquiry was made, the Group Chief Executive Officer Matthews Chikaonda in April, said no one has a right to ask for somebody’s salary. Chikaonda said he will not give the information as requested because of the nature regarding the asked information.
Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article are those of the Author and do not represent the editorial policy of The Maravi Post