Government has provided K50 000 as risk allowance to each of 2 436 prison officers in the Malawi Prison Service for three months dating back to June 1 2020.
The move follows threats by prison junior staff last week to seal all prisons to force government to pay the allowances and provide them with personal protective equipment (PPE) in the face of Covid-19.
A memo from Secretary to Treasury Chancy Simwaka to Secretary for Homeland Security dated August 13 2020 shows that the allowance is effective June 1 2020, and is only for the three cadres, namely sergeants, sub-inspectors and inspectors.
Reads the memo: “I refer to the meeting that we had with the ministers of Homeland Security and Health and other members of the Covid-19 Task Force on 11th August 2020 to discuss the request by Malawi Prison Service to have their offices paid risk allowance during the Covid-19 period.
“I wish to inform you that Treasury has approved payment of the risk allowance to some grades of prison officers for a period of three months with effect from 1 June, 2020.”
The approval will translate to government spending an additional K121.8 million monthly and K356 million in three months on the prison wage bill.
The officers, become the second group to get allowances after health care workers. Teachers have also demanded risk allowances once schools re-open in September.
In a separate interview, Homeland Security Minister Richard Chimwendo Banda confirmed the memo, saying only frontline prison workers will benefit from the package.
He said: “Treasury has written the Prison, and have started making preparations and funding has been dispatched for the same. These are frontline officers who go to the prison cells and putting their lives at risk. We know Covid-19 surfaced in prisons in June; hence, the allowances starting from that month.”
Asked what will happen after the three months elapse, Chimwendo-Banda said they are dealing with the current situation first.
Currently, the prison service has 253 confirmed Covid-19 cases out of which 29 are officers and the rest inmates. The cases in prisons represent 4.78 percent of the cumulative 5 193 cases nationwide as of Tuesday.
Malawi’s prisons currently hold 14 000 people against the design capacity of 5 000.