The Ministry of Labour has admitted that the K4.8 billion Youth Internship Programme was started without a mechanism and the government has just set up a task force 11 months later.
The programme was started last June and has since recruited about 3 800 out of the targeted 5 000 graduate interns.
But while admitting that there were several steps that were not taken at the start of the programme, the ministry, under the directive of President Peter Mutharika, has again embarked on a programme to recruit some of the interns on a full-time basis when there is no performance assessment in place.
Apart from these challenges, the programme was started without its own budget line and the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development collected funding from various vacancies in the civil service.
Blessings Chitosi, a representative of the interns who also delivered a petition demanding an increase of their monthly allowances from K80 000 to K120 000, said in an interview that interns were going unsupervised in many institutions, wondering how the best performers would be identified.
“Since we started, there has not been any performance appraisal, there is no proper supervision and none was communicated to us. The only reliable source of measuring our performance is the institution we are working with but if they choose to ignore them, they will end up hiring those who are not eligible,” he said.
But even in the face of this, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Labour Joseph Mwandidya yesterday announced the extension of the programme and plans to hire the interns on a permanent basis.
He said: “When the programme was starting, the government did not have the technical expertise. Mistakes have been made but we will aim to do better going forward.
Though he announced that some interns would be absorbed in the system, Mwandidya would not indicate how many and when this exercise would begin.
“We will consider interns that are performing well. With the high vacancy rate, they will be employed but we can only absorb a few a time,” he said.
Asked how the ministry and departments would select those who have performed when there is no performance assessment system, Mwandidya said the institutions would submit reports on the interns.
On whether there was a performance assessment system for the programme, Department of Human Resource Management and Development spokesperson Ken Ntonga said government has set up a task force to look into the issue of youth internship programme and map the way forward.
At the press briefing, Mwandidya did not respond to the interns’ request to increase their monthly allowance, arguing that ordinarily, they should not be paid but the government was being considerate of their needs.
The civil service has a vacancy rate of close to 40 percent but has a wage bill that is 28 percent of the 2018/19 budget of K1.4 trillion.