The majority of civil servants in Malawi have not received February salaries as only four out of 24 ministries have processed pay for their workers, more than a week into March.
Government has attributed the situation to the recent two-week strike when civil servants were demanding better conditions of service and ended up getting between five and 61 percent pay hike, saying all its workers will get their salaries by the end of next week.
Civil Servants Trade Union (CSTU) has described the blame on the strike as “untrue”, wondering why civil servants in the other four ministries have been paid.
As of Friday, only employees at ministries of Finance, Home Affairs, Defence and Transport had been paid, while those at Education, Health, Agriculture and others are still waiting for their pay.
In an interview on Thursday, Ministry of Finance spokesperson Nations Msowoya said Treasury released the money to the Accountant General last week to pay February salaries for all civil servants, but said most ministries delayed to prepare their payrolls in time because of the strike held between February 11 and 21.
He said the law requires that all government employees get their salaries between 27th and 28th of every month.
“The statutory pay date in government is 27th or 28th of the month. It is the strike that has caused the delays because ministries lost about two weeks to work on balances for their salaries,” said Msowoya.
Asked why only, Ministry of Finance and a few other ministries, especially those responsible for security and defence, have been paid, Msowoya said: “Treasury is less than 500 people.
“Home Affairs and Defence are also small ministries. One can work on salaries for those ministries within one or two days. For bigger ministries such as Education and Health, it takes a lot of time to complete the balances because staff there are in thousands.”
He said line ministries are expected to submit their balanced payroll to the Department of Human Resource Management (DHRM) by the 10th of every month so that it is checked for possible errors and anomalies.
“DHRM needs about 10 days to reconcile the sheets and send them to Treasury for release of funding to the Accountant General.
“The Accountant General also says they deposited all salary cheques last week, but the process of preparing the payroll for line ministries is the one that has delayed. It is now up to the line ministries to take the money from their general accounts to various people’s accounts.
“I understand that people are working extra hours to make sure that they go round this problem. We hope by the end of next week, the whole problem can be cleared,” said Msowoya.
CSTU general secretary Pontius Elijah Kalichero said the strike cannot be blamed for the delays to pay civil servants.
“Why have the other ministries received their salaries and not the others? It was the same people who were on strike. The delayed salaries cannot be related to the industrial action that we took.
“It is important that line ministries should speed up the process because people are suffering,” said Kalichero.
He said at this time of the month, ministries are supposed to be preparing their salaries for March and not February.
“We need to find out why the salaries have delayed. It could be some technical problem because it’s not the first time civil servants in some ministries have delayed to get their salaries and this is what we don’t want,” said Kalichero.