The Industrial Relations Court (IRC) has reversed the interdiction of seven Ministry of Health (MoH) staff who were implicated in an K875 million scam involving the United States of America (USA) government’s Centre for Disease Control (CDC) funds.
In its ruling, the IRC observed that 919 employees were alleged to have received allowances which they were not entitled to, but only the applicants were disciplined.
IRC vice-chairperson Vikochi Chima said the staff should be put back on the payroll because of the absence of a formal invitation from MoH for a disciplinary hearing and that the government did not conduct such a hearing.
“Thus, I order that the applicants be put back on the payroll and also that their withheld salaries be paid back to them,” he said in the ruling dated June 19 2018.
The court has since ordered the Malawi Government to put them back on the payroll.
Revelations of the scam came to light following an audit by the Auditor General which traced 919 people out of over 2 718 who the audit identified as being behind the theft and fraud.
About 38 MoH staff were interdicted in connection with K5.3 million in allowances which went to non-medical personnel.
But Dr Blessings Chipendo and six others, who are accounts personnel interdicted after the audit, sued government and prayed for their reinstatement, quashing of their interdictions and damages for unfair labour practices. They argued that 13 months had passed without a conclusion to the disciplinary process.
The Auditor General’s report for the year ending June 30 2016 found that K399 million in allowances was paid to officers whose names could not be traced; K265 million in allowances was paid to officers who were not bonafide civil servants while K61.5 million was paid to non-deserving staff.
The United States Embassy in Malawi called for a speedy investigation and that those responsible be held accountable for the misuse of the funds.
Initially, the funds suspected to have been abused were estimated at K2.5 billion before the audit reduced the amount to K875 million.
In December 2015, MoH suspended its officers after CDC raised the red flag that some MoH officers collected allowances without undertaking field trips for an HIV and Aids programme.