The Attorney General (AG) has asked the Industrial Relations Court (IRC) to declare that embattled Clerk of Parliament Matilda Katopola is absconding from duty by refusing to resume work after the Parliamentary Services Commission (PSC) lifted her suspension.

In May this year, without giving reasons, the PSC recommended to Malawi President Joyce Banda that the Clerk of Parliament (CoP) be removed from office. It also sent her on leave pending the Head of State’s decision.

But in mid July, Banda refused to sack Katopola, saying the PSC did not follow procedures in recommending her removal. Soon after the President’s decision, PSC wrote Katopola, asking her to return to work.

But Katopola refused to resume her duties until, she argued, the PSC clarifies some things.

These included the commission’s motive behind its decision to send her on compulsory leave without reason or explanation and its position on the criminal case in which she is answering charges connected to abuse of office and failure to declare interest in award of contracts after she allegedly gave an K87 000 (about $348) deal in 2007 to Monick Trends, a firm in which she had an interest.

She then proceeded, in July, to file a case at the IRC in Lilongwe asking the court to declare her as having been constructively dismissed and that the PSC’s conduct amounted to unfair labour practices.

Katopola is also seeking compensation through the court for unfair dismissal, unfair labour practices, and severance pay and terminal benefits. Our estimates show that she could walk away with up to K900 million (about $3.6 million) if she gets her way.

But the PSC, represented by the AG’s chambers, this week filed in the same court a response to Katopola’s claims that the commission had constructively dismissed her.

It also responded to claims of unfair dismissal and unfair labour practices or any breaches of labour laws or the constitution.

“The respondent further avers that the applicant’s employment has not been either constructively or otherwise [terminated] as alleged or indeed at all and at the hearing will put the applicant to strict proof thereof,” reads the response sourced from AG Chambers.

The commission, in its counter claim, charges, “that the applicant has absconded her duties for no good reason by failing to report for work as advised by the respondent.”

The AG is asking the court to dismiss Katopola claims in their entirety.

“We also seek a declaration that the applicant has absconded her duties for continuing to refuse to report for duties after dully requested to do so by the respondent,” reads the response.

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