The government has ordered the Attorney General (AG) to review all cases, where it agreed to pay out millions of kwacha to dismissed top government officials, Finance Minister Ken Lipenga confirmed to the Daily times on Sunday.
The move follows stinging criticism from the Malawi public including donors with one western envoy describing the payouts as “golden parachutes”.
In an interview, Lipenga said no official was yet to be paid the compensation despite the media reporting on several former top brasses agreeing with government through legal means on multi-million kwacha out-of-court settlements.
“What we have done is to ask the office of the Attorney General to review all these cases. Then the cases will be challenged in court where government will defend each case robustly,” Lipenga said.
He insisted that no official was yet to receive any payout, saying the Treasury could not make the payouts without his knowledge.
Efforts to speak to Attorney General Anthony Kamanga on the matter yesterday proved futile.
However, he was quoted by dailytimes’s sister paper The Sunday Times on February 17, 2013 as saying the government would save money in the out-of-court settlements.
He said his office considers exit clauses in contracts and other issues before coming up with the figures.
“The decisions are made for public good. My office considers a number of issues before arriving at the figures and I can assure you that we have been paying less than would be the case had the issues gone to court. We have been saving funds that way and we have done that for public good,” Kamanga was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, some of the country’s donors have openly criticised government for the huge out of court settlements—made to former officials who were unfairly dismissed following a change of leadership in April last year.
Common Approach Budgetary Support (Cabs) chair, Germany Ambassador Peter Woeste, last week described the payouts as “golden parachutes” and said the donors had raised the concern with government.
“We feel no one should be entitled to these golden parachutes. This amount; I calculated could feed over 3,000 poor families. This makes up the question; the question is about the gap between those on the top end of the salary structure and those of the lower end. But here in some of these cases, it is extreme and this is what I criticised,” Woeste said.
He said while there was encouraging progress on the fight against corruption there was more that needs to be done.
Among the officials government reportedly agreed to pay off millions outside court are former Anti-Corruption Bureau Director Alex Nampota (K70 million), former Admarc Chief Executive Officer Charles Matabwa (K82 million), former Reserve Bank Governor Perks Ligoya(K49 million), former Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) Director General Bright Malopa (K40 million), just to mention a few.
Meanwhile, former aides of the former president late Bingu wa Mutharika have filed a lawsuit against government over their dismissal following the regime change.
These include former presidential spokesperson Heatherwick Ntaba, State House Press Officer Albert Mungomo, Director of State Residences Edward Sawerengera and special advisor to the president Margret Chaponda.
However other law experts have also said as much as donors may be right but legally these individuals are entitled if the rule of law is to prevail.
“ these payouts are in accordance to the law and if we are to adhere to the justice system then yes they have to be paid despite what the donors say.” Said Kampeni a prominent law expert.
“ the donors want rule of law to prevail and so it is, they should not complain now because they accused Bingu of the same “ said Kampeni
Some quarters are blaming the presidency of irresponsibly firing individuals without looking at the legality side of it but rather of personal hatred.
Indeed if the justice system is to prevail the pay outs are in accordance to the Malawian law and more are to be paid millions despite the ministers order.
Some have advised political leaders to understand that we are in a democratic society and firing of top government officials because of personal and political differences will have such consequences.