Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) says government owes public primary and secondary school teachers’ salary arrears amounting to about K1.7 billion through promotions, deployments and failure to reconcile bank details.
TUM general secretary Charles Kumchenga said in a telephone interview yesterday that Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) confirmed knowledge of the arrears dating back to 2010 and attributed the problem to failure of auditing.
But in a letter dated September 6 2017 which The Nation has seen, MoEST Principal Secretary (PS) Ken Ndala said he noted the teachers’ calls to decentralise the payments as is the case with their salaries. He also said district education managers (DEMs) have requested to collect the unprocessed vouchers.
Reads the letter in part: “You are aware that the ministry has been processing payment of salary arrears for our teachers which have been accumulating for the past six years.
“However, following the devolution of teachers’ salary to the district councils [under Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development], a number of district education managers have requested to collect the unprocessed vouchers of salary arrears to finalise payment on their own.
“As a ministry, we feel this is the right direction to take to facilitate quick processing of the arrears.”
While confirming that some DEMs are yet to get payment vouchers from Capital Hill to start processing the payments, Kumchenga said the salary arrears do not include 9 630 teachers government deployed in August this year.
He said: “Since we embraced the concept of decentralisation, and our salaries are being processed at the local council level, we thought it wise to ask government to have our payments facilitated by the councils.
“However, the arrears do not include teachers which government deployed on IPPE 9 and ODL 4 in August this year.”
Kumchenga also appealed to government to start paying leave grants for the 2015/16 financial year to teachers skipped following irregularities that marred the payment process in their district councils.
Among the affected districts are Chiradzulu, Mzimba, Lilongwe Rural, Karonga, Chitipa and Nkhotakota.
However, MoEST spokesperson Lindiwe Chide asked for more time to consult to clarify on the figure.
In June this year, teachers went on strike to force government to pay them leave grants for the 2016/17 financial, a development that paralysed learning across public primary schools nationwide.
The strike also prompted pupils from various public primary schools to engage in demonstrations that saw them engage in running battles with police where some got arrested and others sustained injuries.
Depending on the grades of the teachers, the leave grants vary from K28 000 to K33 000. There are an estimated 70 000 primary and secondary school teachers, who are expected to receive the leave grants.