Buluma speaks on SPC Zamba’s interference on dubious fuel deals

Former NOCMA Deputy CEO Hellen Buluma
  • Zamba pressured NOCMA  to give $20 million to a certain Chief from Nigeria

Former National Oil Company of Malawi (NOCMA) Deputy CEO has revealed that despite Malawi having a proper and clean deal with the Abu Dhabi national oil, it flopped due to the interferences and instructions from the Secretary to the Office of the President and Cabinet Colleen Zamba.

Helen Buluma said she couldn't handle the pressure exerted on her due to the SPC’s preference to four other supplies brought in to intercept the Abu Dhabi deal; a development which pained her.

She admitted that in her position, she didn’t  always get chance to meet the President to raise issues of the SPC’s interference who also doubles as NOCMA’s Board Chairperson hence was caught between a rock and a hard place as Chakwera gets memos thru Zamba’s office.

She alleged that a certain chief from Nigeria with connections to Zamba she suspects were established during the time she worked with the United Nations, demanded to get a $20 million cut from the $50 million despite not being involved at any point in the deal.

The former NOCMA Deputy CEO indicated that the President initiated the Abu Dhabi deal on his return leg from the United Nations General Assembly and was waiting for its finalization but the bringing in of other supplies derailed it.

Advised Buluma to be professional, not to cower to political pressure

Additionally, it was supposed to be paid by the Royal family not through agents.

She also cited political interference in the Chipoka oil deport which despite not fully operational, Malawi Congress party parliamentarian from Dedza Ndaila Onani, his father, together with an Asian agent was pushing and insulting her for  not granting him a request to own a mini reserve although he was told that it was earmarked for renovation.

Buluma disclosed that she was personally harassed for not succumbing to the pressure apparently because after making enquiries from authorities, they distanced themselves from this and advised her never to sell or give up government property.

When asked to clarify on the events regarding to her firing, she said she was surprised to see her resignation letter circulating on social media as she only shared it with her husband.

After noting a call from the SPC, she did not pick it after seeing the precarious situation she was in as already there were two letters from Zamba and the Ministry of Information announcing that she had been fired.

On 1 November she told her boss on the threats she was getting and hinted on her resignation after she’d noticed the loss of confidence in her following their strained relationship adding Zamba was aware of her pending resignation but told her that she couldn’t be pushed with her resignation threats.

Scenes of motorists searching for fuel has become a common feature in the Chakwera administration

She would not speculate why her boss made it look like she was fired first and then tendered the resignation arguing that all along she knew I'd wanted to resign.

Asked on why she still decided to stay on even after getting threats she responded; “There comes a time when one is pushed to a corner. This was a painful decision which I had to make as we were forced as Nocma to ensure that we pay someone who never existed in fuel deal arrangement the first place”.

In a confident tone Buluma stated she would’ve left as early as September in line with the Ombudsman's ruling but was asked to stay to help the fuel situation evidenced by the four months contract she was given.

 As a Malawian, she told the Committee she remains patriotic to her country adding that during one of those rare meetings with Chakwera, he told her to do the right things, be professional and not to cower to political pressure and follow the law as he stressed that he does not send people to issue instructions on his behalf.

Buluma assured the Committee of her availability to do proper handovers and even to work whilst waiting for a successor without a pay so as not to leave a gap and wants to support continuity of operations at the oil company.

At the centre of the fuel deal controversies: Zamba

She also disclosed that a functional review was done which normalized the existence of the position of the Deputy CEO in the company’s organogram.

Ironically, all the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) members of the Public Appointments Committee (PAC) boycotted the meeting and Chairperson Joyce Chitsulo stated she never received any apologies from them.

Coincidentally, Attorney General Thabo Chakaka-Nyirenda is on record to have said the Committee is not legally mandated to summon Buluma now christened Namtchathu.

During the interface, most of the members praised her for the brevity and courage to explain the going-ons in fuel deals, expressed concern over her security and asked her why she still hanged on despite the threats.

Meanwhile, Zamba who was scheduled to appear before the Committee after Buluma, did not show up and according to Chitsulo, they will consult the necessary standing orders to map the way forward on the issue.