Government has once again been caught on a wrong foot forcing it to agree to pay, outside court, former Chief Executive Officer for Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) Charles Matabwa over K82 million for unfair termination of contract.

Attorney General Anthony Kamanga said he is not part of the negotiating team, and Matabwa’s lawyers were noncommittal on the payment although they admitted that the case was on going.

However, a government source confirmed the amount.

This is the highest pay out surpassing the K70 million that government agreed to pay to former Director of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Alexius Nampota as compensation for his removal from office before the expiry of his contract.

Lawyers for Matabwa, Tembenu, Masumbu and company proposed to government to settle the matter outside court.

“Whilst we have moved on to file a notice of assessment of damages in the matter, it is our view that this matter has reached a stage when it should be negotiated and resolved out of court,” reads the letter in our possession signed by the firm’s senior partner James Masumbu.

The letter, with reference JMM/7667/06/11C dated December 5, 2012, indicates that the matter was first brought before Deputy Chairperson of the Industrial Relations Court Jack Nriva on November, 30 where he ordered that Matabwa was entitled to compensation for unfair dismissal.

Masumbu then wrote the legal representatives of Admarc Beal, Dalken and Associates that they reached this decision having considered a number of local cases pertaining to unfair dismissal in fixed contracts.

“The general principle deciphered from them is that the applicant is entitled to the salary and benefits, including expected increments, to the end of the contract,” says Masumbu in the letter.

In an interview on Thursday, Masumbu admitted authoring the letter but declined to discuss the intricacies of the payment process.

According to another document in our possession, titled gratuity computation for Dr. C.J Matabwa between June 2010 and June 2012, he had been getting K1, 594,420.00 with a gratuity charged at 20 percent translating into K318, 884.00 a month.

Between June 2012 and June 2013 the calculations are based on the calculations that he would have been getting K1, 753,862.00 with a gratuity charged at 20 percent translating into K350, 772.00 a month; while from June 2013 to May 2014 he would have been getting K1, 929, 248.20 with a gratuity charged at 20 percent into K318, 884.00 a month.

According to the calculations Matabwa was supposed to get a total of K21, 046,344 between 2012 and 2013 while between 2013 and 2014 he was to get K23, 150,978.40.

Within the 24 months, Matabwa was supposed to get K7, 056,000.00 on fuel; K4,200,000 on school fees, K24,000.00 leave grant, K1,632,000.00 on security guards, K648,000 on security alarm, while K8,640,000 was for what is itemised as car usage.

In total the amount government is to spend on Matabwa is a whopping K82, 823,037.24.

The matter of compensation was started by Matabwa himself when he wrote the then Admarc board Chairperson Ernest Malenga on May 21, 2012.

Matabwa wrote that since his service with Admarc was terminated on May 16, 2012 he wanted to know how best the statutory body was going to assist him.

“…You will recall Sir that my contract was supposed to run until 31st May 2014. This means I had another twenty four months to go before the expiry date of the contract. As the termination letter is silent on this aspect, could I request to be advised Sir on how this remaining period will be treated in the circumstances?” asks Matabwa in the letter.

The letter, a copy of which we have seen, is copied to Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Comptroller of Statutory Corporations and the director of administration and company secretary.

When the matter came to light, Chief Secretary Bright Msaka told Malawi News that such contracts are done by the boards and that Admarc board was in a better position to respond.

However, a letter authored by Msaka to Matabwa on April 12, 2010, which we have also seen, shows that the Chief Secretary was economical with the truth.

Msaka wrote in the letter titled ‘renewal of contract’: “I write to inform you that it has pleased His Excellency President Ngwazi Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika to approve the renewal of your contract as Chief Executive Officer of The Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc), with effect from 1st June 2010, for a further period of four years.”

The confidential letter from Msaka reference number CS/S/001 was also copied to the Secretary for Human Resource Management and Development, Controller of Human Resource Management and Development, the Accountant General, the records officer and the director of administration and company secretary.

In an earlier interview with Malawi News Matabwa confirmed writing the government to find out the way forward on the termination of his contract half way through.

Matabwa said he was not given any reason why his contract was terminated half way through and that he was neither bitter nor angry about it.

“Government gave me a chance to work for Admarc and as an employer government can hire or dismiss. However, I have written Admarc to find out what will happen since I was in the middle of my contract,” he said.

Matabwa also refused to comment on the duration of his contract and gratuity benefits.

The year 2012 saw government negotiating out of court payments in a number of cases most of which bordered on unfair dismissals and unlawful dentition.

Since President Joyce Banda came into power, her government has been settling matters outside court.

Banda replaced several other officials who served in the Mutharika regime.

They include former Anti- Corruption Bureau (ACB) Director Alex Nampota, the then Reserve Bank Governor Perks Ligoya, former Inspector General of Police Peter Mukhito, Secretary to the Treasury Joseph Mwanamvekha, Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) Director General Bright Malopa and Malawi Revenue Authority Commissioner General Lloyd Muhara.

Chief Immigration Officer Elvis Thodi was also booted out about two months before the expiry of his contract.

Clerk of Parliament Matilda Katopola was also removed briefly before she was reinstated to her chagrin and therefore declined to continue on her post and decided to sue government for ‘constructive dismissal’.

Katopola, a trained lawyer, is demanding an arm and a leg from government to carter for what would have been her salaries, benefits, and retirement package calculated up to 2030 when she would have retired.

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1 ndemanga

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ZIMENE MUMAKONDA

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