LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-Malawi Ombudsman has determined that the appointment of Mr Henry Kachaje as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA) flouted procedures as the motivational speaker did not possess the minimum qualification of a master’s degree required for the position. The Ombudsman has thus advised MERA to ‘nullify’ the appointment as if it never happened.

According to the report Ombudsman Grace Malera has directed the board of MERA to nullify the appointment of Kachaje as if it never happened.

The report states that Kachaje applied for the MERA role in January this year and when he went for interviews in April, he presented a Bachelor’s Degree and a reference letter in respect to his Master’s Degree.

He was hired in August by the MERA board after he managed to present a transcript.

Richard Chapweteka who was also interviewed for the job and a civil society organisation called Forum for National Development complained to the Office of the Ombudsman over irregularities in Kachaje’s hiring. They claimed that Kachaje did not have Master’s Degree as required by the vacancy published by MERA board.

When he appeared before the Ombudsman, Kachaje said he finished all the work in March for the award of a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA).

He admitted that he did not present his MBA to the interview panel saying he had not obtained it at the time because he was yet to clear outstanding fees at Azteca University, a Mexican university which is considered as a Jerusalem (bogus) university where students can buy a qualification.

Kachaje was offered the job at MERA on 19th August, 2021 and he reported for duties on 24 August.

In light of the allegations relating to the recruitment process pertaining to the assertion that Kachaje did not hold the requisite minimum qualification, i.e. a Master’s Degree qualification, and the subsequent assertions by both Mr. Kachaje and the Board of MERA that Mr. Kachaje in  held a qualification obtained from Azteca University, the Ombudsman engaged the National Council of Higher Education (NCHE), for information and clarification in light of their legal mandate, on the accreditation or recognition status of the qualifications obtained from the said University.

According to NCHE, there are two possibilities of doing distant studies with international schools, those that attend classes with branch campuses in the local universities and those that register with the school through its country of jurisdiction.

However, the satellite campus associated with Azteca University in Malawi was classified by NCHE as an illegal institution in 2019 and the position of NCHE on the status of the satellite campus has not changed to date.

NCHE went on to inquire from the Regional regulatory bodies within its network to determine the
recognition status of the programme. According to the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), the University is not accredited by the local authority in Mexico and its MBA is not among those authorised by the Federal or State Education authority of Mexico.

In the findings of the report, Ombudsman Malera faulted the MERA Board for proceeding to shortlist and interview and subsequently offer employment to Mr. Kachaje even though he was not a holder of a Master’s Degree at that material time.

She added that this should speak to why in the interviews Kachaje took time to explain to the panel of all the publications and a study programme that could be equated to the value of a Master’s Degree or even a value surpassing a Master’s Degree.

She also noted that some candidates were dropped because they did not hold Master’s Degrees.

“Mr. Kachaje was thus, treated differently from all of the other candidates that did not make it to the shortlist on account of the fact that they had not met one or more of the requisite criteria, such as ‘lack of a Master’s Degree,’” reads part of the report.

Malera then described the act of proceeding to shortlist Mr. Kachaje as a serious flaw in the process considering in his case he had at that point not met a very crucial criteria as stipulated in the advertisement, namely a Master’s
Degree.

She added that this contravened the express legal requirement under section 4 of the Public Service Act that entry into the Public Service MUST solely be determined on the basis of merit, namely, relative ability, knowledge, skill and aptitude.

With respect to the said MBA Degree from Azteca University, Malera said the inquiry has established that this is not offered by an accredited institution and therefore not legally recognised by the Government of Malawi.

She said in the report: ‘Therefore, this could not be a lawful basis for offering Mr. Kachaje the job of CEO of MERA.

“Under the circumstances as established by the Inquiry, I must conclude that the Board of MERA flouted all required due diligence processes in proceeding to interview Mr Kachaje regardless.

“The Board placed Mr. Kachaje in an advantaged position over the rest of the candidates in proceeding to shortlist him when he had not met the requisite criteria. This was not only manifest unfairness, it was actual unfairness and is tantamount to a maladministration.”

“Through their omission or failure to verify with NCHE as to the status of the recognition of the Master’s in Business Administration Degree qualification from AZTECA University, the Board acted unreasonably and unprocedurally. Further this omission renders the conduct of the Board unlawful as effectively, they proceeded to hire a candidate who technically had not met the minimum requirement for the job as stipulated in the job specifications.”

She further noted that a person becomes certified for an academic qualification upon conferment of the academic qualification, which is usually indicated on a duly and authoritatively signed certificate. In the case of Mr. Kachaje this date is the 26th August, 2021 and this happened after he was already offered the job.

Malera also faulted the Board for introducing arbitrariness and unreasonableness in overly accommodating Mr Kachaje to bring forth the requisite certificate from 29th April when the results were determined to 19th August when an offer of employment was finally made to Mr Kachaje.

She then declared that the recruitment of Mr Kachaje was unprocedural, irregular and illegal in that it breached the principles of fairness and legality in the exercise of powers and duties vested upon public bodies.

“In proceeding at all material times from the point of shortlisting to the point of the offer and acceptance of the employment contract on the premise that Mr Kachaje held Master’s Degree, which was a requisite minimum requirement, when in fact this was not the case, the whole recruitment process was founded on voidable premises, and therefore void ab initio, on which premises the purported recruitment of Mr Kachaje is a nullity,” said Malera.

Malera then directed that: ” The Board of MERA should proceed to effect the attendant administrative action as if the recruitment of Mr Kachaje in fact never happened and did not take place, including formally withdrawing the  purported employment contract from him, including associated emoluments and attendant benefits forthwith.”

No wonder MERA covered Kachaje with an injunction against Ombudsman report release on November 10, 2021.

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