25-year push for pension


By Mandy Pondani

Government is failing to pay Mzimba-based Frackson at least K13 million, calculated at current value, in pension funds and other terminal benefits 25 years after he was sent on forced leave.

The situation has raised fears about possible organised scamming in the system.


After working for the Forestry Department under the Ministry of Forestry, Energy and Mining from September 1, 1967, Chipeta, now 81, was in August 1997 sent on leave but has been struggling to get his dues from his employer.

He said in an interview earlier this month that he was told by authorities at the Accountant General’s office a couple of times that the pension money was processed, disbursed and accessed as far back as 1998.

Director of Human Resource in the Department, Innocent Nyirenda, also told us last week that information in his office indicates Chipeta was paid by the Accountant General following interventions by the Office of the Ombudsman.


“I am new in the department but the case of the gentleman reached my office, and I gather that he was paid K1.5 million in gratuity through a cheque from the Accountant General,” Nyirenda said.

Chipeta insists he never got a penny.

We also substantiated with his bank account’s records that the said money was not deposited there as the account never received any money in excess of K1 million at any point between 1998 and January 2022.

Chipeta, who was initially employed as a Forest Guard, on January 2, 1982 was promoted with two steps to the post of First Subordinate Class (SC1), a position he served on up to around August 1997.

Records indicate that his salary was not adjusted to match with the position he held as an SC1, thereby raising concern of unfair labour practices.

“There have been a number of irregularities about my employment down to the manner in which I was retired. Despite my promotion, my salary was never raised.

“I was never paid the salary difference between the initial grade of SC3 and the new grade of SC1; need I say that at the time of my retirement, there was no formal procedure; I never signed any retirement forms,” Chipeta said earlier this month.

He said that after several futile trips to the Ministry of Forestry headquarters, in 2011 he launched a complaint with the Office of the Ombudsman which made a determination on the matter in 2014 under file number OMB/LL/02/0327.

The ruling, which we have seen, delivered by then-Ombudsman Tujilane Chizumila, ordered government to formally promote Chipeta, pay him salary arrears from the date of his promotion to the date of mandatory retirement and give him a refund of about K334,000.

The K334,000, it is on record, was accumulated from the personal resources that he used for constructing forest guards’ houses in duty stations, after he was charged by Ministry of Forestry officials to enhance security in his area of jurisdiction.

“The respondent was very harsh in the manner they terminated the services of the complainant and the fact that up to date, the complainant has not yet received his terminal benefits is unacceptable…,” reads part of the Ombudsman’s determination.

On December 10, 2020 the Office of the Ombudsman wrote a follow-up letter to the Department of Forestry in which it gave them a 14-day ultimatum to comply with the determination.

The letter, however, did not yield anything, forcing Chipeta to commence legal proceedings at the Industrial Relations Court (IRC) in Mzuzu to force his employer to comply with the Ombudsman’s order.

On June 6, 2016 a consent judgement was entered in which the court ordered that the quantum of damages for the unpaid pension be assessed by the Registrar and consequently paid to Chipeta.

This order, too, was never responded to.

When we followed up with current Ombudsman Grace Malera on whether there is anything they are doing to help Chipeta now that it is clear that the Department of Forestry remains in contempt of both her office’s determination and the IRC order, she admitted to have been facing problems with enforcing her office’s determinations with the department.

She indicated that so far, there has been partial compliance with the determination.

“After several meetings, the complainant was duly promoted from the post of Forest Guard SC1 to SC3 through a letter Ref. No. Admin 2, dated 6th June, 2017 with effect from 2nd January, 1982 with an initial annual salary of K549.00 (to be converted to current rate of salary at grade SC3).

“Upon his retirement, the complainant was put on pension and he is receiving his monthly pension amounting to K64,075.89 through his bank account,” Malera said in a written response last week.

Information on Chipeta’s bank statement, however, shows that he only got his monthly pension from March 15, 2019 to May 15, 2020, in varying amounts between K57,210.62 and K64,000.

The payments then stopped abruptly.

Then, an Accounts Assistant from the Accountant General’s office, who asked for anonymity, told us in confidence that information in their possession shows that the pension money was processed, disbursed and accessed by a person unknown to Chipeta and his family.

“This issue is being investigated internally because the complainant has been vigilant in pursuit of his money. It shoes the bogus beneficiary also gets the monthly payment,” the official said.

They added that around 2018, there was a verification exercise of all pensioners, a development they suspect might have forced the scammer to stop diverting Chipeta’s monthly pension for about a year; hence the monthly credits between 2019 and 2020 in Chipeta’s bank account.

Chipeta’s son, Austin, who has helping his father with the matter, corroborated our source’s sentiments saying: “Someone told me about the bogus beneficiary of my father’s pension but authorities have not helped us in tracing him or her.”

The young Chipeta lamented that his father, whose health is now deteriorating due to old age, has in the years been denied a decent retirement and thus called on well-wishing rights groups to help them get justice on the matter.

Meanwhile, General Secretary of the Malawi Congress of Trade Unions, Madalitso Njolomole, has described Chipeta’s ordeal as theft and that it is a police case.

“Someone has to be arrested and this could just be one of the many cases in which some civil servants work at scamming pensioners in the country. Government should curb this malpractice quickly,” he said.

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