Court rejects Bulumas plea

The High Court of Malawi has rejected former deputy head of the National Oil Company (NOCMA) Helen Buluma applicationto apply for a judicial review.Buluma was challenging the decision by the Ombudsman in September 2022 declaring that the her appointment was null and void and that the claimant should not be paid emoluments, terminal benefits or other payments accrued to her time as Deputy Chief Executive Officer (CEO)of NOCMA.

Buluma who has had a controversial reign at NOCMA claimed that the Ombudsman decision impeded a legitimate contract she held at the institution.”She asserted that the defendant’s decision targeted her and nullified her employment even though she was not responsible for her ownrecruitment. She further asserted that by section 5 of the Ombudsman Act, theputative defendant is meant to inquire into injustices inflicted on citizens andnot victimize the citizens and that the putative defendant acted vice versa inthe present case,” observed Justice Mike Tembo in his ruling.Buluma also claimed the Ombudsman determination went beyond powers as it ventured into areas of private law and that her employment and entitlements are matters of employment law which is a matter of private law and cannot fall within the arena of section 5 of the Ombudsman Act.

“This Court finds that the present case is not fitfor consideration at a full hearing. There are no serious issues fit for further investigation at a full hearing on judicial review. The application for permission to apply for judicial review is accordingly declined,” ruled Tembo.The Ombudsman ruled that Bulumas appointment by then President Peter Mutharika did not happen as it did not follow the law.Buluma has been at the centre of fuel procurement battles that led to arrest of former energy minister and a number of politicians. She has also fingered Secretary to the President and Cabinet Colleen Zamba attempts to force illegal fuel procurement.

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