As various government operations continue being on a standstill due to funding challenges, Minister of Finance Felix Mlusu has pointed fingers at those operating the Ifmis, arguing that the system has no problems, but the people themselves.
Mlusu wonders why the same people who are able to pay for salaries using the Ifmis are not able to use the same system to fund various projects, insisting, “it is these people who are the problem”.
While not stating if the said people are deliberately sabotaging the government, Mlusu insists on building the capacity of such people, and reminding them of their roles in the country’s growth.
He was speaking yesterday in Mzuzu when government, through the Ministry of Finance started consultation meetings for the 2022/2023 fiscal budget.
Said Mlusu: “Ifmis is not so much the system which is a problem, the problem is the people running the system. It is not just in the Ministry of Finance, but it is in all the MDAs (ministries, departments and agencies). When it comes to payment of salaries, Ifmis is not an issue, but when it comes to payment of other services, then it becomes an issue.
“So, I think this is a question we should be asking ourselves: Why is it that certain payments go through without problems, especially those that are affecting members of staff themselves. Where they are affecting suppliers, third parties and so on, that is when we have a problem. So, it is not the system, but the people operating it.”
Mlusu said government is looking at the problem to ensure that the issue is resolved as soon as possible. He said they will continue providing training and building capacity of the MDAs.
“We went live for 10 votes in July 2020, which means the people we trained were those staff coming from those 10 votes. In 2021, July, we have put in all votes, so there is need to train these additional votes. We have not been able to train them at one go because of Covid-19,” he added.
Mlusu said the country’s economy has experienced an average real gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 3.6 percent in recent years, but with a population growth rate of 3 percent, this level of economic growth equates to low per capita output, which cannot translate into meaningful poverty reduction in the country.
He said government has, thus, developed the Malawi Vision 2063 to position the economy on the transformational real growth rate of 6 percent per annum, insisting, the government will continue borrowing to meet the gap.
Added Mlusu: “I want to also highlight that our expenditure needs are huge. Our domestic revenues can only fund about 70 percent of our budget. This is why, recently, I launched the Domestic Revenue Mobilisation Strategy.
“In that strategy, we have outlined some of the tax and non-tax revenue measures we intend to implement to raise more domestic revenue in the next five years, to allow for the necessary development and social spending.”
Moses Mkandawire of Church and Society of the CCAP Synod of Livingstonia sympathised with Mlusu, saying the K4.1 trillion debt which the Tonse Alliance administration inherited, plus the ongoing debts it is accumulating were not easy for him to manage.
He also wondered why civil servants managing the Ifmis were failing to fund other services other than salaries, further questioning numerous presidential trips which he said were draining resources.
Mkandawire said: “Our budget is more of consumption than production, and that is the biggest problem. Overall, is the issue of corruption, particularly buy some Malawians who connive with our colleagues from elsewhere. We don’t have integrity as a nation.
“We need to put in place austerity measures and let the leadership start suffering with the people, control travels. Look at priority areas, look at how we are financing state houses, we can reduce the number, reduce the flight time and the luxury that goes with it, especially for the Presidency.”
In November, Accountant General Jean Munyenyembe admitted that implementing the new Integrated Financial Management and Information System (Ifmis) is a challenge due to lack of capacity among users.
She made the admission when she appeared before the Budget and Finance Committee of Parliament to appraise it on delays in payments since the roll-out of the new government’s electronic payment system on July 1 this year.
Munyenyembe told the committee that when the system rolled out, 428 out of the required 1 200 users were trained. She said 980 users have now been trained and the remaining ones will be trained in due course.
Said Munyenyembe: “It should be mentioned that the Accountant General continues to train the end users to ensure that they are properly trained to minimise errors in transactions that lead to delays in processing payments. We will prioritise procurement training.
“Currently, the Central Payment Office [CPO] at Accountant General does not have a backlog of transactions that have been submitted by MDAs and are waiting to be paid.
“All new payments are now being made within the stipulated period of 72 hours after successful submission of payments.”
She described the training for end-users such as the Electronic Document Management System, among other technical training module, as cumbersome and attracts varied time-frames based on the technical requirements per cadre.
The new Ifmis has paralysed public service delivery as all MDAs are affected such that some are surviving on donor support to procure services.
At the Ministry of Health, for instance, suppliers are not being paid, ambulances are running dangerously due to lack of maintenance while fuel is being obtained on credit from service stations.