Acontractor engaged to provide security at the US Embassy in Lilongwe is involved in a case of non-compliance after failing to pay the embassy’s guards $1 489,200 (about K670 million) in top-ups to their salaries from the US Government, Weekend Nation has learnt.
According to an audit report from the US Office of the Inspector General (OIG), the American Government tops up salaries of security guards at its foreign posts to enhance security in the posts which have been a target for possible attacks by terrorists around the world.
In Malawi, the US Government pays an additional $100 (about K45 000) allowance on top of the salary of every guard at the US Embassy, according to the audit report. The audit covered the period ending September 30 2013.
“Outline for action: local guard contractor did not comply with contract terms regarding supplemental wage allowance. The local guard contractor for Embassy Lilongwe, Malawi, was required to pay local guards $100 (about K45 000) per month supplemental pay in addition to the guards’ regular wages and benefits, based on a provision in the contract.
“Not paying the supplemental wage allowance constitutes a material breach of the contract and warrants termination of the contract for default. OIG found that the local guard contractor had not paid the monthly $100 supplemental wage allowance to the local guards, as required by the contract,” reads the report from Acting Inspector General Harold Geisel.
The audit also attributes failure for the contractor to pay the local guards their supplemental allowances to knowledge gap in the personnel responsible for supervising the contract.
“The supplemental wage allowance was not paid because the Embassy regional security officer (RSO), who also served as the contracting officer’s representative on the contract, was not sufficiently familiar with the contract terms to verify that the $100 supplemental wage allowance had been paid as required by the contract.
“Also, the contracting officer had not adequately informed the RSO about validation procedures that would have helped ensure compliance with the supplemental wage allowance provision.
“OIG made recommendations for the Department [of State] to determine the full extent to which the contractor had complied with the contract’s supplemental wage allowance provision and to instruct applicable contracting officer’s representatives to verify that the contractor pays the supplemental wage allowance to local guards,” reads the report.
It also says the audit was done in seven posts that were perceived to have threat levels ranging from medium to critical levels,” adds the report.
In an e-mailed response on Wednesday, US Embassy public affairs officer Gabriel Hons-Olivier said the process of reviewing findings of the audit is still underway.
“The OIG report reflects an initial review of the local guard contract and was submitted to the contracting office within the State Department for review and response. A process that remains underway.
“The Embassy recognises the vital contribution that local guards make to our security and are committed to ensure that they receive a living wage and all benefits they are entitled to. We are proud that the US Embassy guard force is among the best paid guard forces in the country.
“We appreciate the OIG’s notice of a potential issue and look forward to the contracting office’s review and determination. Until that process is complete, we must reserve any determinations,”’ said Hons-Olivier.
Efforts to talk to the local guard contractor for the US Embassy proved futile on Friday.