The National Audit Office (NAO) has, for the second time, shifted the headcount exercise and payroll audit of the civil service due to what is being described as technical hitches related to the processing of funds for the exercise.
The exercise, which was set to begin on October 12, has been moved to early November, indicates a letter from the Auditor General’s (AG) office to all principal secretaries and government departments.
“Due to technical problems with respect to processing of funds for staff which has delayed, the commencement of the headcount exercise in your ministry or department, with the exception of Capital Hill, has been postponed to the first week of November 2015,” reads the letter dated October 13 signed by AG Stephen Kamphasa.
According to Kamphasa, his office is working round the clock to ensure the problem is rectified and the exercise proceeds as planned.
In an email response to follow-up questions, NAOs spokesperson Lawrence Chinkhunda said the office faced challenges of obtaining fuel for the exercise on time.
He, however, said the delay would not affect the exercise—which has been fully funded by government—because it was properly planned, with all risks analysed and all measures are being undertaken to ensure its success.
Said Chinkhunda: “We are still committed to our time frame of at least four weeks to cover all sectors in all the districts once we are on the ground.”
In an interview, Professor Lewis Dzimbiri of the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College observed that the issue of ghost workers is a serious symptom of malfunctioning systems of an organisation.
“We have never heard of a private sector company complaining of ghost workers because it (private sector) practices tenets of good management. To hear that we have ghost workers in ministries when there are reports of vacancies in the same ministries and unemployed graduate nurses, teachers and doctors roaming on the street, is a huge contradiction,” said Dzimbiri.
More worrying, he added, is the fact that besides the continuing drain of the national purse without corresponding provision of public services, the delay in flushing out ghost workers is a reflection of a culture of “normlessness” and lack of decency in public service management which frustrates good-intentioned and hard-working citizens.
“It is inconceivable that for so long a time public monies have been abused and diverted by public service criminals who are bent on self-enrichment/aggrandisement. The delay is unwelcome and everyone expects speed in dealing with this cancer in public service human resource management,” he said.
The headcount exercise, which will involve verification of appointment letters, pay slips, bank statements and academic qualifications, aims at flushing out ghost workers currently suspected to be draining billions of kwacha from public coffers. n