- Central hospitals, Health Ministry headquarters affected
Punished for somebody’s sins. Hundreds of innocent government employees have to endure the torture and embarrassment of being pocketless mid-way into March. This is because a mistake on deduction of a loan repayment of an officer at the Ministry of Health has caused the delay in payment of February salaries.
The Ministry of Health headquarters and central hospitals are the latest to be hit with salary delays as a result of the devolution of the payroll from central government to district councils.
The latest hitch and its reason have caused the Civil Servants Trade Union (CSTU) to describe it as a display of government officials’ incompetence.
Until yesterday, there was a mystery on how the ministry’s headquarters and central hospitals could have been affected by an exercise which in the past two months was being carried out between Capital Hill and district councils.
After the devolution of the payroll to councils, only salaries for civil servants in the ministry’s headquarters, Department of Nutrition, Mzuzu Central Hospital, Kamuzu Central Hospital, Zomba Central Hospital and Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital are being processed at Capital Hill.
Ministry of Finance, whose Accountant General’s Department is responsible for disbursing salaries to ministries and departments, explained the anomaly yesterday.
Ministry of Finance public relations officer Alfred Kutengule explained that the technical matter arose because the payroll system was sensitive to errors.
“One person had a loan which was over-deducted leaving his salary in the negative. The process could not be completed because of that anomaly,” he said.
Kutengule added: “The system is such that when there is a single error it cannot run. This happens even if it’s a single file affected.”
Ministry of Health spokesperson Adrian Chikumbe also confirmed the delayed salary payments, attributing the problem to the delinking of the district health offices’ (DHOs) payroll from headquarters.
“We are hoping by next week, this will be sorted out,” he said.
But in a memo dated March 7 2017 addressed to hospital directors, directors in the ministry and staff, the ministry indicated that February salaries would delay following the de-linking of the district health offices payroll from headquarters.
“The Ministry of Health headquarters payroll has been affected; hence, experiencing some technical problems that have caused the delays in processing the February salaries,” the internal memo reads.
It adds: “The ministry is making every effort to rectify the problems and the salaries are expected to be transmitted to various banks once the problem is rectified. It is with this that the ministry is apologising for the delay.”
However, the memo does not indicate the actual challenges being experienced or give a time frame when staff at Capital Hill and central hospitals should expect their salaries.
In an interview, CSTU general secretary Madalitso Njolomole wondered how government could fail to rectify a payroll for such a small number of people considering that the DHOs payroll, which is larger, has since been delinked.
“Whether a positive or negative change to the system, civil servants should not suffer at all cost. Our understanding was that they pre-tested and overcame the challenges of the new system with the decentralisation so they should not blame the same for this problem,” he said.
For two months now, civil servants in the crucial sectors of health, education and agriculture have been hit by salary delays attributed to the devolution of the payroll.