The joyous festive season mood may have eluded some civil servants in Malawi who went through Christmas and a two-week break without pay.
The employees who are yet to receive their salaries mostly belong to the ministries of Health and Education, notably teachers in Neno and Mwanza.
Civil Servants Trade Union (CSTU) president Eliah Kamphinda-Banda has since pushed the blame on government for Ã¢â‚¬Å“making a hasty decisionÃ¢â‚¬Â in sending civil servants on a two week-break before paying them.
Said Kamphinda-Banda on Wednesday: Ã¢â‚¬Å“The development has forced those concerned to incur unnecessary debts over Christmas. Although I received official notification from a few people, I believe there are many civil servants who were affected.Ã¢â‚¬Â
He said support staff from the Central-East and Central-West divisions of the Ministry of Education and some Ministry of Health staff came to him to report about the non-payment of December salaries.
Kamphinda-Banda, who could not give the exact figure of those affected, said he has also received many calls from other civil servants on the same.
Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) secretary general Dennis Kalekeni said Mwanza and Neno formally reported a non-payment of salaries for all teachers there, a development he said was confirmed by the Ministry of Education and the Accountant General.
Said Kalekeni: Ã¢â‚¬Å“We were given the reasons, but they are too technical for me. However, we followed up the matter and are pleased to inform the nation that as of Tuesday, we were told that cheques were sent out to various banks in the two districts, some of which had started paying out.Ã¢â‚¬Â
He said while at the Treasury, he discovered that some teachers in Nkhotakota, Mchinji, Kasungu, Chipasula Secondary School and Livingstonia Technical College had also not been paid although cheques were sent.
Kalekeni also said Lilongwe Rural-West had 29 teachers omitted from the December payroll although their colleagues received their salaries before Christmas.
Said Kalekeni: Ã¢â‚¬Å“I received the report just 30 minutes ago and as TUM, we will follow up and seek an explanation from relevant authorities on when these teachers are likely to get their pay. The Lilongwe scenario is a bit complicated because records show everyone was paid.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We shall try to verify the report and make sure they get their pay instantly. This is a month when salaries are used to buy fertilisers and pay school fees. Obviously, there is panic.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Efforts to talk to Ministry of Education and Accountant General officials proved futile, but Information and Civic Education Minister Patricia Kaliati said government cannot be discussing the matter in the media, arguing that unions know where to address their concerns.
Said Kaliati: Ã¢â‚¬Å“We are not in a tug of war with unions. They have been in discussions with government and should have followed up on reasons for the delay. It is our wish that everybody get paid to care for their families. We cannot not rule out people who deliberately fail to process salaries in order to frustrate the system.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Chief Secretary to Government Bright Msaka announced the holiday from December 23 2011 to January 6 2012 to give Ã¢â‚¬Å“civil servants enough time to celebrate the festive season with their families.Ã¢â‚¬Â