District commissioners (DCs) have dismissed claims by Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe that his ministry has transferred funding to enable the councils pay leave grants for the striking teachers.
The minister yesterday told members of Parliament (MPs) that Treasury had transferred funds to the district councils and that it was now up to the councils to decide when to effect payments.
Gondwe was responding to a question from the First Deputy Speaker Esther Mcheka-Chilenje who sought clarification on whether the Treasury had indeed transferred the funds.
This was after opposition MPs on Tuesday demanded concrete answers on what government, particularly the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, is doing to deal with the nationwide strike that teachers are staging to compel government to resolve their grievances.
Chitipa South MP Werani Chilenga (People’s Party-PP) expressed concern over government’s silence on the matter.
Chilenga emphasised that the sit-in was not healthy for the country whose education standards continue to dwindle each passing day.
But Minister of Education, Science and Technology Emmanuel Fabiano exonerated himself from blame, saying district councils were in a better position to tackle the issue “because the ministry no longer has mandate and/or jurisdiction over such payments.
He assured that the teachers would get their dues before the end of the 2016/17 financial year on June 30 2017.
But chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Education, Elias Chakwera, could not take it.
He demanded that Fabiano should be specific about the date on which government intends to pay the teachers and get the schools re-opened.
“I want the Minister of Education to tell this House when the Ministry of Finance will transfer money to the district councils and when the district councils will implement the payment,” he demanded.
This prompted Mcheka-Chilenje to ask Gondwe to clarify whether the Treasury had indeed transferred the funds.
In his response, Gondwe claimed the Treasury had transferred the funds into accounts of the councils.
“As Minister of Education has said, there are two people involved there, not himself, but Ministry of Finance and the district councils. Let me just say that, I think we may have to go into detail how this is supposed to be organised. As far as we are concerned, we have transferred funds to the district councils. Now it’s for each district council to actually pay the teachers,” he said.
But DCs dismissed the claim in random interviews yesterday evening.
“Government has only given us authority to process payment; and, not actual funding,” said Mzimba DC Thomas Chirwa.
This was corroborated by Mangochi DC Reverend Moses Chimphepo.
Commenting on the issue, Salima DC Rodney Simwaka said the council has not received the funding.
Balaka DC Rodrick Mateauma said: “The communication we have is that payments will be made this month.”
Meanwhile, TUM president Willie Malimba has vowed that the sit-in will continue until teachers are fully paid their dues. n