- Report explains troops get less allowances
Following complaints by Malawian troops in peace-keeping missions that they receive lower allowances than envisaged, The Nation has established that it is poor equipment that leads in cuts in the soldiers’ money during reimbursements to government as part of a larger agreement with the United Nations (UN).
In the first quarter of this year alone Lilongwe got K396 million less money in reimbursement from UN because Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldiers deployed to peace-keeping missions abroad lack enough equipment or do not have the equipment at all, according to a report we have seen.
During the quarter under review, Malawi sent about 847 troops to support UN peace-keeping operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and MDF was expected to get about K2.5 billion ($3 377 952) as reimbursement on the money the country spent on equipment and personal allowance.
However, between February 1 2016 and April 30 2016, MDF received slightly over K2 billion ($2 849 930.94), which was 15 percent less the total amount due to Malawi as K396 million ($528 021) was deducted owing to absent or non-functional contingent-owned major equipment. The deducted reimbursement also filtered to lower allowances for Malawian troops.
The revelations come against a background of a report in August last year by our sister newspaper, Nation on Sunday, that government owed over 800 MDF soldiers who participated in UN peace-keeping missions about K3.3 billion following deductions made on their allowances.
In a payment letter to Malawi Ambassador to UN Brian Bowler, UN director of peace-keeping financing division, Maria Costa, explained to government why MDF got a lesser refund for the period February 2016 to April 31 2016.
Reads the letter reference number NUA/BNF-1-21/JL/ML: “I have the honour to inform you that payment in the total amount of $2 849 930.94 has been transferred to National Bank of Malawi. This remittance represents payment in full for services rendered by the military contingents in the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the [DRC Monusco].
“The amounts of the payment are calculated based on the following: monthly average troop strength; reimbursement reflecting the single rate of $1 332 per person per month for military personnel in accordance with General Assembly resolution 68/281 and adjustment related to deduction for absent or non-functional contingent-owned major equipment in accordance with General Assembly resolution 67/261.”
The said General Assembly resolution 67/261 draws a direct link between sufficiency and serviceability of major equipment and the amount of reimbursement due. Thus, the adequate and the better the equipment is, the more the reimbursement a country gets from the UN.
Under the troop deployment Wet Lease System, MDF receives three categories of reimbursement from the UN that includes major equipment, self-sustainment and troop allowance and reimbursement of major equipment is based on equipment performance in the mission area.
The deductions forced the MDF’s General Command and Staff Council Committee meeting to reduce allowances for individual soldiers from the UN recommended rate of K999 000 ($1 332) per person per month to K675 000 ($900) per soldier a month.
In a report that The Nation has seen, the General Command and Staff Council Committee meeting recommended that government should buy new equipment and service the non-functional ones for MDF soldiers to enjoy full UN reimbursement.
Malawi Battalion’s Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) payment breakdown report that The Nation has seen also shows that the MDF payments have been staggering from the highest in August 2014 and April 2016 where MDF received a total of K825 million ($1.1 million) while the lowest was in January 2016 where MDF received about K225 million ($300 000) a month.
In January 2016, monthly individual soldier rate went as low as K262 500 ($350) per month from the UN recommended K999 000 ($1 332.)
In 2013, Malawi entered into a $145 million arms deal then K58 billion—later slashed to K12 billion—with a South African military equipment company Paramount Group which supplied, among other equipment, speedboats, helicopters, armoured personnel carriers, grenade launchers, ammunition, and mobile field kitchens.
In a confidential report from MDF’s General Command and Staff Council Committee Meeting that was held on October 22 2015 at Kamuzu Barracks, indicated that the meeting noted that it was the government’s responsibility to ensure that major equipment on Contingent Owned Equipment (COE) list was provided for as stipulated in the memorandum of understanding (MoU).
Reads the report in part: “Thus, the troops should not be affected by the deductions occasioned by the shortfalls of major equipment on the MoU. In view of the fact that troop allowance is inconsistent due to the absence or non-functional major equipment, it is prudent that government should endeavour to meet the threshold of major equipment requirement on the MoU.
“Considering the current situation where troop allowance is already being deducted as a result of major equipment shortfalls, deducting troops again as proposed without addressing the equipment shortfalls would appear unfair to the troops.
“In this regard, it is suggested that reimbursements for major equipment should, in the interim, be channeled towards the purchase of major equipment that is absent or non-functional in the mission area. This measure would enable the troop allowance reimbursement to be consistent.”
The MDF General Command and Staff Council Committee Meeting resolved that MDF continues sending its personnel for foreign military training in order to develop a professional military capable of defending the nation despite the inadequate funding it gets from government and recommended the government should be requested to urgently provide all equipment as stipulated in the MoU with the UN.
However, MDF deputy spokesperson Captain Emmanuel Mlelemba defended MDF, saying the assertion that Malawi does not have equipment or that the equipment was in poor state was not correct.
In a written response, he said: “MDF has all what it takes to participate in UN missions, but every mission has its own unique challenges and the persistent challenge MDF is currently facing is frequent servicing of its equipment due to the conditions we are operating under in the mission area.”
On troops not getting full refunds from the UN, Mlelemba said: “It is worth mentioning that the UN signs a memorandum of understanding with the Troop Contributing Countries [TCCs] through the Defence Forces and the reimbursements are made to the TCC.
“It is, then, the TCC that decides how much the troops are to be given for their services in the mission area while considering a number of factors.”
Deputy Minister of Defence Aggrey Masi told The Nation in a telephone interview on Tuesday that his ministry was not aware of the recommendations from MDF to government to support peacekeeping missions.
Malawi country profile on the Providing for Peacekeeping website stated that, among others, the rationale of MDF sending troops to peacekeeping missions was economical “due to limited financial allocation from the Treasury in recent years, the MDF has looked to peacekeeping as a means to generate additional resources and financially empower its soldiers, who mostly rely on their salaries to support their families”.
In the 2016/17 National Budget, MDF was allocated an estimated if K20.9 billion of which about K14 billion was for the remunerations and K6 billion for Other Recurrent Transactions (ORT).