Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has called for strong ethical behaviour among public officers, including disciplining staff, if efficiency is to be achieved.
The call comes against a background of delays in payment of civil servants’ salaries due to challenges attributed to the new Integrated Financial Management and Information System (Ifmis).
But PAC chairperson Shadreck Namalomba said Ifmis, as a system, was not to blame, saying the problem was to do with attitudes and the work ethic of officers manning the system.
He said: “I have always said that Ifmis is not a problem because as a system, it cannot operate itself. The people behind it are [the problem].
“There is serious need to inculcate reformation of ethical behaviour of public officials involved, with emphasis on disciplining them and time management.”
Ministry of Finance spokesperson Williams Banda yesterday agreed with Namalomba that the new Ifmis was not entirely to blame for salary delays, saying the problem is created by inefficiencies by some public officers responsible for processing salaries.
He said: “For a salary cycle to be perfectly complete to ensure public workers are paid in time, those preparing salaries in ministries, departments and agencies [MDAs] are supposed to submit prepared salaries on General Purpose Form A number five [GPF5A] every fifth day of the month, but mostly they do not do so.
“I can tell you that this is the fifth day of the month, but only a handful of MDAs have submitted the GPF5A form for salary processing for the month of September.”
Banda said a majority of MDAs have a tendency of submitting the GPF5A forms late in the month, despite this being a routine job.
“What they have to do is to check who has died, resigned or been promoted to make adjustments,” he said.
Banda said from now on, the perpetual culprits of delayed submission of the desired salary processing information will receive serious warnings to ensure efficiency and adherence to Public Finance Management Act as read with Treasury guidelines.
On Thursday, President Lazarus Chakwera stormed the Department of Human Resource Management and Development to demand answers on continued delays of salaries for civil servants.
Two days earlier, Roads Authority board chairperson Joe Ching’ani, bemoaned in the presence of the President, delayed payments to contractors due to the same challenges with Ifimis.
But Banda yesterday said while the problem may be attributed to Ifmis, some contractors have themselves to blame.
“The new Ifmis is fully automated with all regulatory information requirements, but some contractors have not been submitting crucial information,” he said.
Banda said a majority of contractors who struggle to get paid do not submit either the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA) certificates or their registration certificate with the National Construction Industry Council (NCIC).
He said under the new Ifmis, Treasury cannot pay anyone with incomplete information.
Institute of Chartered Accountants in Malawi (Icam) chief executive officer Francis Chinjoka Gondwe is on record as having said that the system is as good as the people who operate it; hence, called for serious disciplinary measures for end users.
The new Ifmis rolled out fully on July 1 2021/22 financial year after previously piloting it with a few selected MDAs.
Training for end users, according to Banda, is ongoing, with those who used the system during, pilot phase regarded as super users who are going around MDAs helping out with operations when one is stuck.
In 2018, the Malawi Government awarded a tender to supply Ifmis software to the Zimbabwe-based firm, Twenty First Century at a bid price of $13.8 million (about K10 billion).