At least 30 people employed as clerk of works under a World Bank-funded project, have gone seven months without pay.
With a $90 million loan (about K70 billion) from the World Bank, government through Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, is implementing a project called Equity with Quality and Learning at Secondary (Equals 3) aimed at, among other things, constructing infrastructure in selected community day secondary schools (CDSSs) to improve the quality of learning science and mathematics.
In March this year, the ministry employed 30 people to work in 13 districts as consultants; otherwise, in project documents, known as clerk of works (CoWs), to supervise construction works.
In separate interviews the consultants expressed frustration that even after signing contracts, the Ministry of Education is yet to start paying them their salaries.
“Once we received our appointment letters in March—we had orientation workshops in April and we were assured that we had been employed and in case we were employed elsewhere we needed to resign, which some of us did. But up to now, we are not paid,” one consultant said.
The group complains that during their engagements with ministry officials, they have been given false hopes and promises that their issue would be sorted out soon.
Said another consultant: “We are not even sure if we will be paid arrears [from April or July] when we signed contracts. There is simply no communication. Once we visit their offices for answers, we are given fake promises and assurances that we would be sorted out. We are not sure if the contracts have been approved”.
One of the offer letters we have seen reads: “I am pleased to inform you that you were successful and have been offered the appointment of the post of clerk of works within the Equals Project under Ministry of Education. You are upon accepting this offer requested to take up the post at EIMU at Amina House where you should report for allocation of duty station,” reads the letter dated March 31 2021 signed by Grace Taju on behalf of Secretary for Education.
Equals is a six-year project—starting from 2019 to 2025—but construction works have not started two years after the World Bank provided the funds. The project is likely to delay further following the Ministry of Education’s decision to cancel a tender in which it identified 18 successful bidders to undertake the work.
These bidders had also been left in suspense for about a year—and when the ministry published a list of successful bidders in July this year—there was some flicker of hope that the project would start anytime soon.
But in an October 25 2021 newspaper notice, the ministry announced cancellation of the bids, saying: “The outcome of the evaluation of the bids showed that the evaluated costs were substantially higher than the available budget”.
In response, Ministry of Education spokesperson Chikondi Chimala confirmed that the 30 were offered employment in April this year, but are not receiving salaries because the work they were contracted for is yet to start.
“The procurement process is still on-going. Consequently, the ministry cannot sign the CoWs contracts presently when the civil works have not started for the simple reason that their work in the field is not yet available.
“In this regard, salaries can also not be paid as the contracts are yet to be formally completed,” said Chimala, whose response only came after we reached out to the World Bank for comment on the matter. The ministry had not responded to our questionnaire for about 10 days.
While these consultants are yet to be paid, information sourced from the World Bank website shows that disbursement of funds under this loan facility started in 2019. The first disbursement was in December 2019 and as of June this year, about K15 billion had been disbursed, including K50 million for payment of fees for employees under the Project Implementation Unit.
Chimala also admitted that other project staff have been receiving their monthly fees as per our findings, saying it is because “they are currently discharging their duties”.