BY CHARLES MPONDA
Embattled Energy Generation Company (Egenco) chief executive officer, William Liabunya, has come under fire following an expose of him deliberately flouting company procedures especially in recruitment processes that were largely mired in sheer unprofessionalism, nepotism and cronyism.
Liabunya has been in the news over the past two weeks for all the wrong reasons. He was sent on compulsory leave together with company secretary Videlia Mluwira pending a forensic investigation into their irregular dealings on a number of issues.
The two obtained an injunction from the Industrial Relations Court (IRC) against the board of directors for its decision. However, the injunction was vacated days later and the same court determined that the two proceed on leave up until an inter-parties hearing scheduled for next week.
Despite his efforts to play victim over his predicament, it has been firmly established that Liabunya is the architect of his own downfall following a string of unilateral decisions he made contrary to laid down procedures.
The CEO is said to have appointed Blessings Phaliwa and Steven Kayira as Director of Operations and Director of Planning respectively.
This move was taken to fill vacancies created after previous office holders had their contracts expired late last year.
Strangely, instead of waiting for the board to initiate a proper recruitment process to fill the vacant positions, Liabunya singlehandedly forced the two new recruits into the system while deliberately ignoring what are given as standard procedures at the government-owned power generator.
As temporary remedy to this anomaly, the board brought in two professionals from the public service to fill the positions on secondment in what was deemed to be only remaining best option.
It is at this stage that Engineer Dr Maxon Chitawo and Gregory Gamula were brought in to serve as Director of Planning and Director of Operations respectively for a year-long tenure.
Impeccable sources within the power utility sector have since vouched for the two saying they will infuse into Egenco fresh expertise and professionalism.
It is established that after the recruitment process has been finalized by the board, the seconded professionals will return to their original institutions.
Though there has been an outcry from some small quarters of society over the secondment, it is part of government procedure for officers to be sent to another duty station for capacity building or due to exigencies of service.
Therefore, the secondment at Egenco remains legitimate as it also falls within the benchmarked five-year tenure for such arrangements.
As if the initial unilateral blunders were not enough, the CEO on June 1, 2023 proceeded to make another management appointment of one Delano Ulanje to the role of Director of Finance without neither the involvement of the board nor its approval.
This decision, just like the first one, was viewed as outright defiance to the board and smelled of pure lack of transparency and accountability from an office that depends on the two attributes for efficiency.
The beleaguered CEO is also at loggerheads with Egenco’s mother ministry, Ministry of Energy, over the implementation of the Kammwamba-Coal Fired Power Project which has been stagnant for a decade now.
Liabunya has been defying the ministry over an order that the project be transferred back to the ministry where other Independent Power Producers should be allowed to express interest in implementing it.
Conventional wisdom would have it that after Egenco failed to implement the project for ten years, other private companies with capacity to mobilise financing for coal-fired power projects should be given an opportunity.
His forced leave is a blessing in disguise as it allows the company to be realigned to the nation’s agenda on upscaling power production to anchor industrialisation.
From all that has been revealed of Liabunya’s conduct, it is certain that he might be the Achilles heel that has been dragging back the power generation agenda in the country through his unwarranted unilateral and questionable decision-making.