LILONGWE (MalawiTalk) – President Dr Lazarus Chakwera on Sunday hinted that his government officials are now getting legal advice from sources other than the Attorney General’s office.
In his seventh national address on the War on Covid-19, President Chakwera said he tasked the Office of the President and Cabinet to consult with the Solicitor General, the acting Auditor General on the interdictions of cluster heads to ensure that the interdiction letters were written in a manner compliant with the law.
Said Chakwera: “I tasked the Secretary to consult with the Solicitor General, the Acting Auditor General, and others to ensure that the letters of interdiction to these cluster heads are written in a manner that is compliant with the law.”
The President did not mention the Attorney General Dr Chikosa Silungwe among those to be consulted amid reports that his legal opinions are being ignored by the Office of the President and Cabinet.
The office of the Attorney General is the chief legal adviser to the government and recently the incumbent Chikosa Silungwe has stirred debate over some of his legal opinions, including his position that interdicting people on no pay was illegal.
The Solicitor General – who is secretary to ministry of justice – is Mr Reyneck Matemba, a former director general of the Anti-Corruption Bureau.
President Chakwera had directed Secretary to President and Cabinet (SPC) Mr Duvelious Zangazanga Chikhosi to interdict controlling officers and heads of Covid-19 response clusters for failing to submit weekly expenditure reports on their allocation of the K17.5 billion Treasury disbursed last month.
The controlling officers and heads of clusters were also faulted for presenting expenditure reports void of supporting documents to the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 regarding how they spent their share of the K6.2 billion.
The President’s order to interdict the controlling officers, who include heads of government ministries, departments and agencies such as principal secretaries (PSs), district commissioners, chief executive officers of councils, raised issues of legal pitfalls.
University of Malawi law professor Edge Kanyongolo observed that rejection of AG’s advice “may sometimes be politically motivated and only cite alleged legal errors as a convenient fig leaf.”
Professor of law at Cape Town University in South Africa, Danwood Chirwa, argued that AG’s office is created by the Constitution as principal adviser to government on legal matters.
In quoted reported by the press, Chirwa said: “This is an important office of government which is there to help the government to respect the rule of law. The legal opinions that the AG give cannot be treated as mere opinions to be ignored at whim.”.
Chirwa warned that failure to follow the legal opinion of the AG could lead to lawlessness.
AG Silungwe declined to comment.