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Government tough on Cham payroll


Mark Botomani

The Department of Human Resource Management and Development (DHRMD) has said the migration of the Christian Health Association of Malawi (Cham) establishment to the government payroll system would only cover employees that the government approved to be working in the association’s facilities.

The development comes after some of the healthcare workers in Cham facilities have, through their professional bodies, demanded that they be moved to the government payroll to lessen challenges they face in accessing their salaries.

In a letter sent to the Secretary for Health Charles Mwansambo, Secretary for DHRMD Blessings Chilabade indicates that the decision is in line with the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that exists between the Ministry of Health and Cham.

“It view of this development, I would like to advise further that you immediately inform Cham that, from 1st April 2023, they should find alternative ways to sustain employees in the facilities that were un-professionally maintained on government salary subsidy in violation of [terms of] the MoU,” he says.

Chilabade further stresses that there shall be no replacements for any excess employees once they exit the facilities.

Mwansambo did not comment on the matter when we sought clarification on events surrounding the MoU.

He referred The Daily Times to DHRMD.

Cham spokesperson Michael Phiri said the institution is aware of the communication from government on the matter and that they are negotiating with the government to continue supporting the facilities.

“We are aware of what is happening. Government has been supporting Cham facilities with salaries but there are about seven facilities which were not included on the [list of those getting the] support but they were still benefitting from the government. We are negotiating with them to continue supporting the facilities,” Phiri.

Four health worker bodies— which include National Organisation for Nurses and Midwives of Malawi, Physician Assistants Union of Malawi, Society of Medical Doctors and Association of Malawian Midwives— gave the government up until March this year to fully migrate the payroll, lest they put down their tools.

Reports indicate that DHRMD would effect the migration process in April this year due to technical challenges it encountered.

Key provisions of the Cham, government MoU include that the government pays salaries to Cham staff; Cham provides healthcare services at minimal user fees; government and Cham are not allowed to open new health facilities within an 8-kilometre radius of each other; government seconds tutors to Cham colleges; graduates are deployed 60 percent to government and 40 percent to Cham; and that service level agreements be signed at district level to close specific service delivery gaps.

In February, Public Accounts Committee of Parliament Chairperson Mark Botomani claimed that, through inspection of some staff returns and identity cards for employees, the committee observed that some officers who reached retirement age were still not removed from the payroll.

The committee’s inspection followed the release of the June 2020 National Audit report which was submitted to Parliament and later to the committee for follow-up.

Botomani claimed that some of the ‘ghost’ workers were detected in Cham facilities.

According to Botomani, the MoU between the government and Cham (2016), in Section 4.1.1, states that the government will, through the Cham secretariat, pay salaries, leave grants, pension scheme contributions and any other allowances applicable to the civil service, and as introduced by the government from time to time, for all local staff working in Cham units.

“The committee, through an inspection of staff returns and identity cards for employees at health units, observed that a total of 26 employees appearing on [the] payroll reached retirement age, yet they were not removed from the payroll.

“The committee was saddened to note that the audit team was not provided with any evidence as to whether they [the workers] were engaged by the government through Cham on month-to-month basis or any other arrangement.

“This raised suspicion as to whether this was a deliberate move to conceal the information on how these members of staff were still in the system or they were, indeed, just “ghost workers” that were used to syphon money from the system,” Botomani said when presenting the report to lawmakers.

The Pac report noted a similar anomaly when inspecting Malawi Police Service and Malawi Defense Force staff returns.

Botomani said, the committee observed that retirees were still appearing on government payroll system despite reaching mandatory age limit of 60 years in the service.

“The committee noted that failure to clean up the payroll was tantamount to collusion. The committee, therefore, recommends that Secretary to the President and Cabinet, through the Secretary for Department of Human Resource Management and Development, should particularly verify the payrolls at MDF and the Malawi Police to check their correctness in comparison with the current workforce.

“The SPC through DHRMD, should conduct employee physical verification exercise for all MDAs to ensure that retirees are not appearing on the government payroll,” the recommendations read.

The committee gave controlling officers a three-month ultimatum to report on action taken on the recommendations.

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