Dawn of a New Era?
Wisdom Kayuni describes the Public Appointments Committee(PAC) as a group of members of parliament whose main goal is to make sure certain appointments and functions brought forth by the president or other governmental institutions are double checked before being officially approved. PAC is responsible for confirming public appointments like Director of Public Prosecutions, The Attorney General, The chief Justice and the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Director General. These appointments can either be rejected or confirmed on the discretion of PAC. For instance, in 2009, PAC rejected Tumalisye Ndovi for the post of ACB director General after he was appointed by the then president, the late Bingu Wa Munthalika.In response to the rejection, the president still ended up appointing the candidate as the acting director.
More recently, on 11th May, PAC rejected the presidential appointment of Martha Chizuma as the new ACB Director General. This decision came as a surprise to a lot of Malawians and ended up causing a public outcry, as Martha Chizuma was considered the ideal candidate because of her previous work and notable achievements as an Ombudsman. Early this year, her office carried out several investigations which uncovered many malpractices and abuse in different public offices; for example, the illegal and irregular appointments at the Malawi Regulatory Authorities. Her tenacity in fighting corruption combined with her zeal in defending the law and justice brought a gleam of hope for a new era, which could have in turn restored trust in the ACB.
In a turn of events, just last week, on the 17th of May, the committee reversed their decision and confirmed Martha Chizuma. People jokingly, debated on whose case file she is going to dust off and reopen first. Of course something good came off this controversy as it sparked debates on the transparency of the whole confirmation process and what it’s based on. It also made people question the whole PAC committee and their eligibility in making such decisions considering that the appointed candidates may sometimes be highly qualified specialists, and the members of the committee might not have the capacity to offer assessment. This is said considering the fact that the committee may comprise of members whose qualification might only be Malawi School Certificate of Education. As such, setting them to assess eligibility of PhD holders seems insane. We are eager to find out whether such debates will lead to any major reforms within the committee.
We wish Martha Chizuma all the best she takes up her new role and responsibility. She is now the first woman to hold the office and we hope she will not be the last. We also hope her success will lead to more women being appointed for similar big positions.