Lilongwe City Council (LCC) Mayor Juliana Kaduya yesterday led some councillors in sealing the offices of the council’s chief executive officer John Chome and two directors for communicating to staff that November salaries will delay.
Besides Chome’s office, the councillors also locked out the director finance Elliam Banda and director of administration Mussa Mwale.
In a letter dated November 26 2021, Chome communicated to staff that due to poor cash flow, salaries for November would be phased, starting with employees in the lowest grade.
By yesterday, staff in the lowest and middle rank grades had been paid and the senior grades were due to get paid, according to an officer at the council.
In an interview yesterday, Kaduya said the council is disappointed that management did not inform them about the decision.
She described failure to pay staff salaries on time as a sign of poor management.
Kaduya said: “Management wrote a letter on 26th of November 2021 informing staff that they will not pay salaries on time because of low cash flow.
“We find this unacceptable. It’s a case of poor planning and we needed to be informed early enough about this situation. How do they expect staff members to survive?”
The mayor said the council has not been appraised on the financial situation facing LCC to warrant the delay of salaries.
Kaduya added that the councillors were writing Ministry of Local Government to inform them that they have lost confidence in the chief executive officer and his management.
Meanwhile, the Malawi Local Government Association (Malga) has condemned the conduct of councillors to seal offices and their recommendation to have concerned officers fired, saying this is illegal.
In an interview, Malga executive director Hadrod Mkandawire expressed worry that there is a growing but worrisome tendency by councillors to rush to close offices whenever there are misunderstandings with council management.
He said: “There is no provision in the Local Government Act or Decentralisation Policy or the Constitution that establishes local councils to seal an office for council officers based on misunderstandings.
“Not even the minister or Secretary for Local Government has got the power. There are procedures that have to be followed even when the ministry wants to take legal action against the council.
“This decision is illegal and unacceptable and we condemn it in the strongest terms.”
Mkandawire has since urged the councillors to immediately open the sealed offices and allow relevant offices such as Ministry of Local Government as well as the Local Government Service Commission to look into performance issues concerning directors at the council.
Chome did not respond to our calls nor respond to our questionnaire sent to him on WhatsApp.
Ministry of Local Government spokesperson Anjoya Mwanza confirmed receiving a communication from councillors about their concerns and that the ministry is currently making consultations on the same.
The councillors’ decision comes days after LCC management sealed Malawi Congress Party (MCP) national headquarters at City Centre to enforce payment of outstanding city rates.
The MCP offices were reopened hours later after Kaduya, an MCP member, intervened and accused the council secretariat of acting without the knowledge of councillors. She said the MCP issue was in court and, as such, the action was uncalled for.
When put to her that the councillors were under political pressure and have overreacted on the delay of salaries, Kaduya said she was not under any political pressure from anyone and that their decision is meant to fight for the welfare of staff.
MCP is a key partner in the governing Tonse Alliance administration.