The offfice of the Ombudsman has faulted the Ministry of Labour, Sports, Youth and Manpower Development for failing to establish the workers compensation fund and tribunal, 16 years after the Workers Compensation Act was enacted.
This was revealed in a report released last Thursday titled Painful Processes, signed by the Ombudsman Martha Chizuma Mwangonde, which outlines challenges in the compensation of injured workers by the Workers Compensation Commission (WCC).
The report findings follow an investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman that was prompted by 119 outstanding complaints against the WCC mainly on unresponsiveness, delay and unilateral or unfair reduction of degree of incapacity.
According to the report findings, the Ministry of Labour, and WCC in particular, failed to pay injured workers in time even after their respective employers had made payments to the commission.
“Failure and unwillingness by WCC to ensure compliance of determinations by the Ombudsman amounts to unreasonable and unfair omission of duty and therefore, maladministration. The provision in the Act on enforceability of WCC determinations are similar to that of Chief Resident Magistrate; hence, easier to enforce as a court order.
“Poor communication by WCC as regards the reduction of degree of incapacity to injured workers and thus depriving the injured worker the opportunity to be heard is unfair, illegal and irregular,” reads the report in part.
The report also notes that there are poor communication systems between labour offices and WCC headquarters, leading to poor record management.
In light of such challenges, the report has made several recommendations including that the labour commissioner oversees the establishment and operationalisation of the WCC Fund and the Tribunal to be done within the 2018/19 financial year.
The report also recommends that the WCC must seek guidance, within 10 days, from the Attorney General when it comes to enforcing its determination in terms of Section 50 of Workers Compensation Act (2000).
Minister of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development Francis Kasaila’s phone could not be reached when contacted yesterday. However, in an interview with The Nation in October 2017, he said setting up of the fund is long overdue.
He said: “The law provides that we set up a workers’ compensation fund and despite the process starting in 2000, things were not moving at a pace that we wanted.”
The minister said the fund will be administered by an independent body comprising government officials, lawyers, employers and employees and will be tasked with the responsibility of mobilising resources to be used to compensate workers in the line of duty.
The investigations by the Ombudsman Office drew participants from the Labour Commissioner, district labour offices (excluding Likoma), selected district health officers, insurance companies, privately-owned companies, government ministries, departments and agencies, Employers Consultative Association of Malawi (Ecam) and the Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU). n