Embattled Malawi Clerk of Parliament Matilda Katopola has taken President Joyce Banda to court, accusing her of abusing Executive and prosecutional powers after she allegedly pushed to have her removed from office.
Documents at the High Court’s Lilongwe District Registry show that Katopola is accusing Banda of abusing her powers to push for her (Katopola’s) prosecution on corruption allegations in a 2007 procurement transaction at the National Assembly.
Katopola’s claims are contained in an affidavit in support of her application for a judicial review of the legality of her prosecution in a case where she is accused of flouting procedures and not declaring interest when Parliament procured printing and photocopying services worth around K80 000 (about $320) from her former firm, Monick Trends.
Both the National Audit Office (NAO) and the late president Bingu wa Mutharika cleared Katopola in this case. She argues that she now feels the revival of the case is political, according to the court documents.
Reads Katopola’s affidavit in part: “The President made a decision to remove me from the office of Clerk of Parliament. The decision was based on political sentiment and on none of the reasons provided for under the Parliamentary Service Act for the removal of the Clerk of Parliament.
“The President directed the Chief Secretary [to the Government Bright Msaka] to procure [persuade] me to accept a deployment away from the parliamentary service and to threaten me with the prospect of a hostile environment if I declined.
“While I declined, the President, through the Vice-President [Khumbo Kachali] and the Chief Secretary, gave an order to the Speaker [Henry Chimunthu Banda], as chairperson of the commission, to procure my removal on the expressed ground that I would not serve the interests of the current political administration.”
Katopola further argues that her prosecution did not originate from the Parliamentary Service Commission, which recommended to the President that she be paid her terminal benefits in excess of K400 million (about $1.6 million) after termination of her contract.
It adds that the alleged procurement irregularity that occurred at Parliament in September 2007 was “thoroughly” investigated by NAO and the Parliamentary Service Commission.
Since her appointment as the first female Clerk of Parliament in 2005, Katopola has faced pressure from some Members of Parliament to leave office. Sources say she has been unpopular among the legislators for reportedly introducing strict controls, especially on finance management.