Clerk of Parliament (CoP) Matilda Katopola has refused to resume duties as ordered by the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC).

In May, the PSC, without giving reasons, recommended to President Joyce Banda that Katopola be removed from office and sent her on compulsory leave pending the Head of State’s decision.

Banda refused to fire Katopola, saying the PSC did not follow procedures.

But barely two weeks after PSC said she should resume duties, Katopola has refused to do so until, she says, the commission clarifies a few things. She has also asked the Industrial Relations Court to declare her as having been constructively dismissed and be compensated.

In her July 19 2012 letter to chairperson of the PSC, Speaker Henry Chimunthu Banda, Katopola makes her position clear.

“I refer to your letter of July 17 2012, advising me to resume my duties preferably, within a week of receipt of your letter. I wish to sincerely thank you for the invitation although it is clear that your communication is outside the notice period as stipulated in my letter of July 4 2012.

“You may, however, wish to note that there are outstanding issues which remain unclear to me and need your clarification. These are the motive behind the commission’s decision to send me on compulsory leave without reason or explanation; the commission’s findings following your consultations in respect of the matter in question as stated in your letter; and the commission’s position on the criminal proceedings instituted against me on a matter in respect of which I was previously cleared. The commission is aware that I am under arrest by the police and I wish to know how this reconciles with my resumption of duties,” writes Katopola.

She adds: “In the circumstances, I would like to have a meeting with you as soon as possible and in any event, within the period stipulated in your letter, failure which I shall consider myself constructively dismissed as earlier stated in my letter and will proceed to seek legal redress.”

Court case

But on Thursday, Katopola, through her lawyer Yambani Mulemba, filed a case at the Industrial Relations Court in Lilongwe where she wants the court to declare her as having been constructively dismissed and that the conduct of the PSC amounted to unfair labour practices.

She is also seeking compensation for unfair dismissal, compensation for unfair labour practices, severance pay and terminal benefits, according to court documents.

Our calculations show that Katopola could get up to K900 million in compensation comprising salaries, benefits and retirement package calculated up to 2030 when she will have retired. This figure, however, does not appear on her statement of claim.

Particulars of the alleged labour dispute, according to Katopola’s statement of claim, read: “The respondent [PSC], without lawful cause, ordered the applicant to proceed on compulsory leave without reason. The respondent passed a resolution for the termination of the applicant’s employment without reason. The respondent altered administrative systems put in place by the applicant in her capacity as Clerk of Parliament and controlling officer of the National Assembly and reversed measures taken by the applicant pursuant to her statutory powers and functions for the proper functioning of the Parliamentary Service and the National Assembly. The respondent’s conduct was so unreasonable, unfair and unlawful that it made it unreasonable to expect the applicant to continue with her employment. By reason of the foregoing, the applicant has suffered loss and damage; and is entitled to compensation.”

Chimunthu Banda was quoted as telling a PSC meeting that Vice-President Khumbo Kachali and Chief Secretary to Government Bright Msaka indicated that Katopola could not serve the present government well and should, therefore, be removed.

The police dragged her to Lilongwe Chief Resident Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday to answer charges of abuse of office and failure to declare interest in award of contracts after she allegedly gave an K87 000 contract to her Monik Trends firm in September 2007, a matter that saw her fired and then reinstated by the then president, the late Bingu wa Mutharika.

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