Inefficiencies at the Administrator General’s Office in Lilongwe are haunting claimants of death benefits and gratuities, forcing some to spend weeks on end waiting to be assisted.
The claimants, including women, accused some employees at the office of taking a casual approach to work which leads to delays and a piling backlog of claims.
During a visit on Wednesday, The Nation crew found some pensioners and others seeking to process their deceased relatives’ benefits desperately waiting to be assisted. Some of the interviewees said they had travelled from as far as Blantyre, Nkhotakota and Dedza and claimed to be spending nights outside the premises.
Most people had not been attended to by around 10.30 am when The Nation crew arrived at the office.
Some bemoaned lost time and money spent on travelling to the office for days while others said they were forced to sleep in the city without proper accommodation as they waited for processing of various files.
Future Mkaliwafa, 22, from Dedza, said she had been coming to the office since Monday to process the gratuity of her late father, but on each occasion she spent the whole day only to be told his file could not be retrieved.
“In my case, I started coming on Monday. I gave a report. They just kept us waiting. I had to travel back and forth for three days. We are often serviced from close to 12 but soon after they go to lunch. Up to now we are yet to be helped. I am processing deceased funds for my late father. He was a teacher in Dedza,” she said.
An elderly man, who travelled from Blantyre to process his son’s death gratuity, complained that he had spent money on food and accommodation for days, yet he had not been assisted.
He said: “I came to the office on Tuesday morning and I have not received help. Most of those who came on Tuesday were told to come the following morning, but up to now [today 10.30 am] nothing has happened.
“We were just told to come again tomorrow. The office is processing death gratuity for my son. There are unnecessary delays. I had to book a room at the lodge. With covid-19, it is risky to spend a long time inside [the office].”
But in an interview, acting Administrator General Konjela Munde attributed the backlog of cases to delayed automation of some functions at the Lilongwe and Mzuzu offices.
He promised to investigate the matter.
Munde, who is based in Blantyre, said: “I was only informed of challenges in relation to one of the files which might have taken longer to settle. It was to do with the list of beneficiaries. That is the only issue I was explained to. I will need to speak to our colleagues in the office and investigate the issue.”
The office of the Administrator General is among government ministries, departments and agencies targeted in the on-going Public Sector Reforms Programme led by Vice-President Saulos Chilima.
It recently introduced an automatic filing system through a project that started in 2018, but was finally rolled out this year.
However, Mzuzu and Lilongwe offices are yet to roll out the new system; hence, use the old manual filing system. The delays at the office have been blamed in the past for fuelling corruption and theft of deceased estates funds.