Inefficiencies in ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), leading to ignoring of set guidelines, and lack of administrative action against controlling officers are compounding salary delays in the civil service.
Both our analysis of salary reports in the last three months and corroborated interviews with government officials familiar with salary processes show that challenges remain as most MDAs defy set deadlines in submitting relevant documents for salaries leading to delay in payment.
In separate written responses, both Treasury and the Department of Human Resource Management and Development (DHRMD) admitted that while Treasury’s funding delays have an effect, the main concern that delays the whole process is late submission of GP5A forms.
Ministry of Finance spokesperson Williams Banda said: “Any delay in the submission of the GP5A delays all the subsequent processes like the funding process by Treasury, preparation and submission of payment vouchers to the Accountant General, and eventually these delays result in delays of the actual payment of salaries.”
The forms, which contain information for all their employees, are submitted to DHRMD for verification, something few MDAs religiously follow.
According to the salary events calendar from Treasury, all MDAs are expected, by the fifth of every month for verification, something very few MDAs religiously followed.
Treasury is then expected to fund all MDAs from 10th to 15th of the month.
On the other hand, MDAs are expected to submit their voucher lists from 16th to 20th of the month for the Treasury to finally disburse salaries.
Voucher lists essentially outline MDAs payment requirements such as what goes to the Malawi Revenue Authority, Pensions Fund and what is finally paid to an employee.
According to a senior official at the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC), after the President’s surprise visit to Capital Hill, the government is now preparing monthly salary reports to show who is flouting the set procedures that delay payment.
Our analysis of salary reports for August, September and October sent to OPC clearly show that when processes are done on time, salaries can also be paid timely. However, this is not the case as many MDAs submit documents after the set deadlines, thereby piling pressure on other offices. Our analysis was based on 82 votes in the MDAs out of 85.
Our sources could not give us access to three votes, State Residences, National Intelligence Service and Malawi Defence Force because of perceived security issues.
For August, during which salaries were delayed, five votes out of 82 MDAs submitted the GP 5A forms on time, representing only six percent. These included Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare, Ministry of Industry, Office of Ombudsman, Law Commission and Ntchisi District Council.
During the same month, disbursement of funds took place between 19th and 25th, outside the set period of 10 to 15th. Voucher lists, which were supposed to submitted between 16th to 20th, in most cases, were submitted by 30th in extreme cases, leading to salary delayS.
In September, only the Judiciary out of 82 submitted GP 5A forms on time.
And 69 out of 82, representing 84 percent, were funded on time. Only 18 out of 82 votes were submitted within time. During the same month, over 50 percent submitted these forms within four days after the set deadline.
As for October, 37 out of 82 votes, representing 45 percent, submitted the GP 5A forms on time. At least 76 out 82 were funded within time.
Our source at Capital Hill said the President’s visit has brought a fear factor otherwise apart from occasional network challenges most of these delays were as a result of either incompetence or just laziness.
Asked on what administrative actions have been taken against controlling officers or officers who fail to follow guidelines, spokesperson for DHRMD Kennie Mtonga claimed that controlling officers are usually cautioned.
He said: “Controlling officers are continuously cautioned against such delays and of late there is an improvement. And not only DHRMD, but even the OPC has at times directly cautioned controlling officers that have not abided by the deadline.”
We sent questionnaires to some extreme cases such as the Ministry of Health which in the month of August submitted its GP5A on 18th, some 13 days late and voucher list on 30th such that its employees accessed salaries in the following month. For September, there was an improvement as the ministry submitted GP5A on eighth.
The ACB in August submitted GP5A on 19th and voucher list on 27th of the same month. In September, there was no improvement as the graft-busting body submitted the forms on the 14th whereas the vouchers list was sent on 21st. We are yet to receive responses from these two.
On September 2 this year, President Lazarus Chakwera stormed Capital Hill after civil servants had gone into a new month without receiving their August perks and what followed in the last two months was timely payment of the same.
Banda also agreed that while nothing has really changed in the process to make it faster, the President’s visit “came as a wakeup call in the sense that each and every stakeholder on the salaries payment process is now making sure all tasks are being completed on time”.
We sent questionnaires to some MDAs that have been struggling to follow these guidelines but out of three questionnaires sent, nobody had responded as we went to press.