Thousands of civil servants have been deleted from the government pay roll, stopping them from accessing their salaries from April, following a headcount done to purge the payroll of ghost workers.
The National Audit Office (NAO), which conducted a headcount following reports of rampant fraud by the creation of ghost workers on the payroll, in March submitted a report of its findings, the implementation of which has caused a stir in the civil service.
Civil Servants Trade Union (CSTU) and Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) on Wednesday said they were inundated with complaints from civil servants whose names have been deleted from the pay roll, saying some of the affected employees claim to have complied with the audit requirement.
Some of the affected civil servants told Weekend Nation on Tuesday and Wednesday that their superiors told them to go and lodge their complaints at government headquarters in Lilongwe which, for some of them, is hundreds of kilometres away from their duty stations.
They said they were told they risked being declared ghost workers if the anomaly was not corrected by Monday, May 16. Both NAO and TUM corroborated the May 16 deadline.
Treasury Secretary Ronald Mangani in March said the payroll audit report by NAO exposed a number of ghost workers masquerading as civil servants. He did not give figures.
NAO spokesperson Rabson Kagwamminga said on Wednesday the audit checked dubious recruitment process and insufficient documents supporting their recruitment as civil servants.
It also checked if duty stations were tallying with pay points, if some workers were receiving double salaries and also if workers were physically present at their duty stations during the audit.
Kagwamminga said on Thursday government asked the affected civil servants to bring evidence to prove that they are bonafide civil servants, adding that it was very unlikely that all of them would be reinstated on the pay roll.
Said Kagwamminga: “We are resolving the problems and have advised MDAs [[Ministries, Departments and Agencies] to compile details of those affected and present them to us with proper identifications and supporting documents for re-verification. Audit procedures will be carried out to obtain sufficient and appropriate evidence that they are indeed bonafide civil servants. If they still fall short of the necessary requirements, they will be rejected.
‘‘We shall also recommend for severe disciplinary measures to be taken against those responsible [for the malpractices] as well as the employees themselves because we shall deem them to have been conniving to defraud government.’’
TUM president Chauluka Muwake yesterday said 500 members of his organisation had their names missing in Nsanje district alone while Ntcheu had 320 and Neno, nine. He said reports were still coming from across the country.
Said Muwake: “It is unfortunate that most of these bonafide civil servants who have served government for many years are being victimised like this. It is not their fault that some details are missing. But asking them to travel to Lilongwe is unreasonable.
‘‘Most teachers depend solely on salaries for their upkeep which they have been denied yet they are expected to travel and foot other expenses for their upkeep notwithstanding their families. Let the audit team go back and correct the mess in the schools.”
The most affected ministries are Education, Agriculture and Health, according to CSTU officials.
Spokesperson for Ministry of Education Manfred Ndovi yesterday acknowledged that 1 393 teachers had already lodged complaints with the ministry by Monday this week.
Said Ndovi: “We believe there could be more who have suffered similar fate across the country. Our expectation is that all those that have been affected will have to get in touch with the ministry to have their records re-examined or they will be thrown out completely. We are trying our best to help those affected to ensure that we avoid accruing salary arrears.”
Ndovi attributed the problem to failure by some teachers to furnish the audit team with all relevant documents and some discrepancies in their personal files.
“Not all teachers fulfilled the headcount requirements, such as having letters of confirmation and of authority to teach. Some were receiving salaries from schools different from their duty stations. Some had names appearing several times and others had reached retirement age,” he said.
The development has also irked CSTU-the country’s umbrella body for all civil servants. The union’s general secretary Madalitso Njolomole questioned government’s decision to act on the report when it has not been presented to stakeholders.
Said Njolomole: “As a major stakeholder, we have been pressing government to show us the headcount report but they have kept it under wraps. We were told the report was in a ‘‘zero draft’’ form. We are now wondering why they have started implementing its recommendations.
‘‘It has too many problems affecting ministries, departments and agencies as many procedures were skipped during recruitment of some staff. As CSTU, we will fight for all those that are bona fide but have been erroneously deleted because it is not their problem.”
One of the affected teachers in Mzuzu claimed her name was deleted from the system even though the audit team verified all the requirements in her file as correct.
The teacher said Tuesday she was one of the scores of teachers that lodged their complaints to the Northern Division office where they were told to take up the matter with the ministry headquarters in Lilongwe.
Secretary for Department of Human Resource Management and Development (DHRMD) Blessings Chilabade, whose office commissioned the pay roll audit referred Weekend Nation to office of the Auditor General and Ministry of Finance.
“The right people to talk to are the Auditor General who carried out the audit and Treasury who are acting on it. Indeed, here we manage the payroll but the funding comes from Treasury. The report was submitted to the two offices which are carrying out the recommendations,” he said.
Last month, Mangani confirmed government was already deleting ghost workers from the system. We were unable to get his response this week to comment on the complaints from people erroneously deleted from the payroll.
But Kagwamminga on Wednesday defended NAO’s recommendations, saying they were based on their findings on the ground.
Said Kagwamminga: “In this respect government has acted on our observations that some employees indeed did not duly comply with the requirements of Human Resource procedures.’’
‘‘Of course, complaints from those affected have reached us and we are dealing with them accordingly,” he said.
He, however, cast doubt that NAO would recommend the reinstatement of most the affected employee saying there was insufficient evidence to prove otherwise.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is worried with Malawi’s wage bill which in September 2015 resulted in fiscal slippages equivalent to two percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The huge wage bill was partly responsible for the country going off-track with the IMF’s Extended Credit Facility (ECF)-the main tool for medium-term financial support to low-income countries.
In March this year, IMF declared ECF back on track making the country eligible to resume the $150 million programme but cautioned Capital Hill to exercise restraint on the wage bill. n