Malawi’s deputy clerk of Parliament responsible for corporate services Renard Mapemba has over the past six months claimed millions of kwacha in alleged illegal allowances, The Nation has established.
Payment vouchers seen by The Nation show that Mapemba—who has since September 2012 been pursuing a Malawi Parliament-funded five-year part-time PhD programme at the University of Glasgow in Scotland—has pocketed nearly K10 million (about $24 000) in allowances on two occasions.
On the second occasion, we have established that even after pocketing K5 388 093.90 (about $13,000) in allowances, Mapemba did not travel to Scotland as scheduled to present his six-month research work. He was supposed to be at his university from March 25 to April 19 2013.
We talked to Mapemba last week and he confirmed that he was still in Malawi. Our well-placed parliamentary sources also corroborated that he has not travelled.
External travel allowances
Based on Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) documents and a circular issued by the Department of Human Resource Management and Development (DHRMD) detailing allowance guidelines, it appears that Mapemba got the bulk of the alleged illegal allowances by claiming external travel allowances instead of training entitlements.
He claimed stipends to cover expenses such as telephones that do not fall under training, according to PSC documents.
During his first visit to the university, at least K4 334 756.31 (about $10 320) was deposited into Mapemba’s bank account held at Standard Bank, Capital City Branch being payment for external travel and other allowances, according to a voucher we have seen.
An internal memorandum reference number NA/SPF/446 dated August 15 2012 signed by Harvey Chigumula of the travel desk, explains that the money was meant for external travel allowances, telephone allowances, settling allowance, warm clothing allowance and book allowance.
Then in February this year, K5 388 093.90 (about $13 000) was also deposited into Mapemba’s account being payment for external travel allowance for 30 days at the rate of $420 per day and telephone allowance for the same period at $70 per day.
The allowances that Mapemba collected for his PhD trip is way outside the rates of allowances for long-term training that DHRMD rolled out for public servants from January 1 2010.
According to DHRMD, those pursuing long-term courses under Malawi Government Scholarship Fund (MGSF) outside Africa are entitled to £700 monthly stipend, one-off allowances for settling (£270), warm clothing (£270), a book allowance of £270 paid once in an academic year, dissertation allowance of £350 paid once in the final year as well as extra baggage and departure allowance of £500 on their return to students who have stayed in universities for more than two years and £375 for those whose programmes were under two years, but not less than two years.
These allowances exclude tuition and the cost of a return air ticket that is bought on a one-way basis.
Had Mapemba been a full-time student in Scotland, government would only have spent about K3.5 million (about $8 333) on him so far in upkeep allowances comprising £700 monthly stipend for seven months since last September (£4 900 for seven months) and the £810 in settling, warm clothing and book allowances. He should never have collected external travel allowances, according to guidelines we have seen.
Whereas the DHRMD circular has provided allowances for in-country part-time courses, a similar arrangement is missing on the schedule of external part-time courses, which may be an indication that government assumes that all outside training programmes are supposed to be residential.
The nearly K10 million—first in September 2012 and then secondly in March this year—that has gone into Mapemba’s bank account excludes the cost of air tickets and approximately $25 000 (about K40 million at the current exchange rate) tuition fee that the National Assembly has paid directly to the University of Glasgow.
The National Assembly training plan for the 2011/12 financial year shows that the committee approved two training programmes for Mapemba—a short-term programme on parliamentary administration at the Royal Institute for Public Administration in the United Kingdom.
He was also given a nod to pursue a long-term PhD in Business Management at any university in the Sadc region for a period of four years, according to the training plan. We were unable to establish why and at what point the preference for a regional university was changed to a UK institution.
But we have established that on August 16 2012, deputy clerk of Parliament Henry Njolomole wrote Speaker of Parliament Henry Chimunthu Banda, saying he was submitting “for your information and directions” that Mapemba would be pursuing a PhD programme on distance part-time basis with the University of Glasgow, in Scotland from September 17 2012 to July 31 2017.
According to his passport details, Mapemba entered the United Kingdom on September 14 2012 and returned to Malawi through Kamuzu International Airport on October 14 2012.
Since then, he has not travelled for his second spell at the university despite his second round of allowances being deposited into his account at Standard Bank, Capital City Branch on February 11 2013.
Mapemba wrote the Speaker of Parliament on January 28 2013 asking for approval to travel to the university for PhD technical review, research seminars and retreats scheduled for March 25 to April 19 2013 where he was expected to present his six-month research work.
Wrote Mapemba: “This PhD part time study has been designed in such a way that every year I am expected to present my research work to a PhD Technical Review Committee (TRC) and attend research seminars and retreats. I, therefore, submit this memorandum to seek your approval and direction that I attend the PhD Technical Reviews and Research Seminars and Retreats as scheduled, sir.”
Chimunthu Banda wrote on the same memo Ref. No. COP/2/2 approving the trip and allowances were accordingly paid to the deputy clerk for a period of 30 days.
Meanwhile, our sources confirmed that Mapemba is disqualified from receiving telephone allowances because, according to his own memo issued as head of corporate services on June 20 2012, Ref.No NA/FIN/13, such allowances apply to members of Parliament and only to staff who are accompanying the legislators.
“Mr. R.H.E. Mapemba has already pocketed over K9.7 million from public funds. How much will National Assembly spend on his five-year PhD part-time programme at Glasgow University? Because each time he is travelling to attend classes, over K5.3 million needs to be paid to his personal account,” wondered the source.
‘This is an institutional matter’
Last week, National Assembly public relations officer Leonard Mengezi declined to comment on why the National Assembly was paying Mapemba allowances outside government stipulations.
Mapemba also declined to comment when asked why he was collecting wrong allowances and also why he never travelled after pocketing allowances in February.
Said Mapemba: “I have noted your two questions and wish to advise that since this is an institutional matter concerning Parliament and not an individual, you better re-engage the public relations officer of Parliament who is the official spokesperson for Parliament.”
Malawi’s Ministry of Finance spokesperson Nations Msowoya said DHRMD could better explain on applicable allowances for all government-sponsored training.
He also said Parliament was best placed to explain if the funded trips fall under the critical circumstances as stipulated in government austerity measures.
DHRMD spokesperson Rudo Kayira pushed the matter to Parliament as the right body that would competently explain the kind of training for Mapemba depending on the terms and conditions of service.
But highly placed sources said all the scholarships were approved by Parliament management team and did not go through the Office of the President and Cabinet. Ironically, most of the beneficiaries are also in management.
“In normal circumstances, the management approves training for other members of staff and the Parliamentary Service Commission approves training for management team. But in this case, management approved training programmes for themselves which is a clear case of conflict of interest,” said the source.
Some of the approved scholarships were of embattled Clerk of Parliament Matilda Katopola who wanted to pursue PhD in Developmental Management at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, but did not go and the tuition fees of $30 000 equivalent was not yet paid.
Parliament’s financial controller Chikondi Kachinjika got a scholarship to pursue a five-year PhD in Business Administration with the Eastern and Southern Africa Management Institute (Esami) in Arusha in Tanzania on part-time basis whereas assistant clerk (legal services) Edgar Kachere is pursuing a three-year Master of Law in Germany on full-time basis.