EDF defies Ombudsman’s order on CEO recruitment

The Board of Export Development Fund (EDF) continues to defy a determination by the Office of the Ombudsman to adhere to its own regulations and procedures for recruiting Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

Recently, EDF came under fire following revelations that it lowered its bar to suit their preferred candidate Gerald Nsomba as CEO despite him not having professional and educational qualifications spelt out in the initiatial advertisement placed in the newspapers.

The initial advert indicated that the successful candidate should have a Master’s Degree in Economics, Finance, Banking or other relevant Post Graduate Qualification, which Nsomba did not have.

However, the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) subsidiary lowered the bar to Undergraduate Degree and a Master’s Degree in Economics, Business Administration, Finance and Banking just to accommodate Nsomba whose qualifications could not meet the initial requirements.

“Mr Nsomba appears to have been an already preferred candidate of the Governor of RBM at the material time, late Mr. Chuka, going by the evidence furnished to the inquiry by Mr. Nsomba regarding his email, telephone and in-person conversations with the former Governor, as well as the sharing of a draft Advertisement of the CEO role to Mr. Nsomba by the former Governor, when clearly, as Governor of the RBM he was not supposed to play a role in the recruitment of a CEO for EDF. The Memorandum of Association as well as the Articles of Association specifically vests the role of recruitment of CEO for EDF in the EDF Board,” reads part of the investigations by the Ombudsman.

The investigations followed a complaint on September 1, 2021, from Concerned Employees of RBM who raised a red flag on the unprocedural recruitment and appointment of Nsomba as EDF CEO.

The board, comprising Chairperson, Dr. Neil Nyirongo; Mrs Agnes Sentala, then Company Secretary of EDF; Ms. Christina Zakeyo, exofficio member representing the Ministry of Trade; Mr. Peter Simbani, exofficio member representing the Ministry of Industry, as he then was; Mr. Ralph Tseka representing RBM; Mr Tim De Borde independent Board, and Mr Namale independent member, appeared before the Ombudsman on November 29, 2021, for an inquiry.

Findings of the inquiry confirmed that Nsomba was wrongly and irregularly shortlisted, interviewed, and eventually offered the post of CEO of EDF.

Additionally, the Ombudsman found that EDF did not recruit Nsomba in accordance with their Human Resource Policies and Procedures.

“The evidence of Mr Efford Goneka who was the CEO of EDF at the time Mr. Gerald Nsomba was shortlisted and underwent the interviews in 2017 also corroborates the fact that Mr. Nsomba was an already preferred Candidate of the then Governor late Mr Chuka. In addition, on his own admission, upon assuming the position of Chairperson of EDF Mr. Henry Mathanga also facilitated the making of an irregular job offer to Mr. Nsomba. Equally, in her own words, Mrs. Mzembe the Chairperson of EDF when the initial interview process happened in 2017, admitted that when Mr Chuka saw potential in Gerald Nsomba that he could carry the vision of EDF, she did not doubt it,” reads part of the determination by the Ombudsman delivered on 1 April 2022.

It adds, “It is also interesting that the Board addressed the issue of two candidates who were similarly situated differently. As was explained to the Inquiry, Mr Thoko Mkavea the second best candidate indicated a remuneration package, which the Board felt the EDF could not afford. In turn the Board simply ruled him out and did not make any attempts to negotiate with him on the issue. Similarly, Mr Nsomba also indicated a remuneration package, which the Board felt the EDF could not afford, and proceeded to enter into negotiations with him. On the basis of all the above revelations, bias and favoritism towards Mr. Nsomba by key persons that were involved in or connected to his recruitment process cannot be ruled out.”

The Ombudsman, Grace Tikambenji Malera, directed that EDF Board should ensure that good administrative principles of recruitment are put in place and are strictly adhered to, including putting in place a clear recruitment policy, which will guide how recruitments are to be carried out within the institution.

Malera also ordered the Reserve Bank of Malawi as the shareholder to ensure strict compliance with the terms of the EDF’s Memorandum and Articles of Association.

“The EDF Board should ensure that it discharges its mandate as provided for in the EDF’s Memorandum and Articles of Association, in strict compliance with the provisions thereof, including in all oversight functions relating to the administration and management of the EDF, in particular, ensuring fair labour practices and recruitment processes that are lawful, reasonable and procedurally fair,” she ordered.

But latest reports from EDF indicate that the Board has defied this order by recruiting a new CEO whose experience does not meet the 10 years’ experience on a similar job.

EDF Board Chairperson Dr. Neil Nyirongo described the matter as an old condition.

“This is an old condition that ended in departure of the then CEO,” reacted Nyirongo in a brief interview on Saturday.

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