The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has said it is failing to retain the desirable top brains that would have strengthened its corruption fighting activities because of low salaries.
The ACB disclosed this Tuesday when it appeared before the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament in Lilongwe.
Deputy Director of the ACB Elia Bodole told the committee that salaries at the ACB are low such that most of its high calibre employees dump the institution whenever they get a job offer elsewhere that offers better conditions.
Bodole admitted that the graft busting body’s operations are thus compromised because the bureau cannot retain most of the “high calibre” staff.
It is often argued that fighting corruption is a risky job and Bodole indicated that paying attention to such risks would incentivise top staff to stay at the Bureau and even attract more to the institution.
“If the added risk was rewarded, it would help to retain staff, and maybe even get high calibre staff for our operations.
“It is just the same as anywhere else. We don’t expect to have higher calibre, people, when they would be elsewhere,” he explained.
He said the Bureau tries to motivate its employees by among others offering them training.
In February 2015, staff at the Bureau demanded a 70 percent salary increment, a move that split public opinion.
While some questioned the motivation behind such a demand, others said the demand was within the provision of the conditions of service at the Bureau.
Those in favour of the increment of high salaries would be a way of preventing corruption itself at the ACB.
It is said there is an official policy document at the ACB which stipulates that ACB salaries should be higher than those in the rest of the civil service.
However, the government has been unable to implement this provision, often citing lack of money as the reason.
In an interview Tuesday, Executive Director for Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency (Csat) Willy Kambwandira said that low salaries at the Bureau could lead to employees being tempted to tamper with files or compromise investigations in exchange for money.
He recommended revision of their salaries.
“It is very imperative to revise their salaries to ensure high calibre employees are retained and not corrupted,” said Kambwandira.
The Bureau appeared before Pac to respond to audit queries.
Some of the queries included the acquisition of assets at K147.8 million without recording in the fixed asset register; K25.6 million fuel without being recorded in the fuel ledger and lack of payment vouchers for K10.2 million.
However, the ACB defended the queries saying all documents supporting the transactions were now available.
Pac Vice-chairperson Nedson Poya commended ACB for improving in the management of its finances as compared to last year.
On low salaries at ACB, Poya said there was a need to come up with more incentives for the employees because “working at the Anti-Corruption Bureau is a very risky endeavour.”
Poya said Parliament would discuss the salary issue at the ACB because he said, they could not get similar salaries as ordinary civil servants.
Mathews Kasanda is a journalist who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from University of Malawi (The Polytechnic).
In 2015, Media Institute of Southern Africa awarded him the Best Print Media Education Journalist of the Year accolade.
He joined Times Group Newsroom in September 2019.