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Government’s HIV employees support falters

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Government has failed to identify and discipline scores of civil servants it claimed to have benefited from the cash intended for employees living with HIV.

The Department of Human Resource Management and Development (DHRMD) which manages the affairs of more than 140,000 civil servants across all government ministries and departments has failed to explain to us the number of bogus HIV employees that were flushed out or that it has in its books.

In 2011, government through its department for nutrition and HIV and Aids which was then under the Office of President and Cabinet announced that it would no longer be giving out K5, 000 allowances for nutritious food supplements because the fund was being abused.

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It said scheme was being misused as employees who were HIV free also registered to have been living with HIV in order to just get the money.

DHRMD spokesperson, Rudo Kayira, said the policy holder for the scheme is the Department of Nutrition which is in the Ministry of Health.

“As far as I’m concerned, we have no such or the number of cheaters in our books. It’s difficult for us to give out more information on the issue because we have workplace committees who make decisions at department or ministry level so the number of cheaters would definitely be in their books not ours,” she said.

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But the Department of Nutrition said this was entirely DHRMD’s issue as they manage the affairs of all civil servants.

Meanwhile, most civil servants living with HIV are complaining that they have not been receiving either cash or food supplements to complement their HIV treatment.

We have learnt that each government department and ministry is supposed to commit two per cent of its Other Recurrent Transactions (ORT) funding to this but it has transpired that while some are getting the food supplements, others are not.

Civil Service Trade Union (CSTU) has since bemoaned non-compliance of controlling officers of the departments and ministries.

Random interviews with civil servants living with HIV established that initially people used to receive K5, 000 and then it changed to receiving food supplements, but now people get neither.

“I last got food supplements in 2014. I was not getting it monthly but it could be twice a year. No reason was given to us for the suspension of the food supplements. At our office, I know of five people that are living with HIV and benefit from the food supplements,” said James Kaulura who has been living with HIV for 11 years now.

He added: “The food supplements used to help me so much. I have several family responsibilities and my earnings are not that much to cater for all the basic needs.”

He disclosed that the supplements vary from one department or ministry to the other but at his office they used to get two crates of eggs, margarine and groundnut paste for those that do not react to it.

General Secretary for CSTU, Madalitso Njolomole, confirmed to have received complaints that the scheme is not working as expected as many civil servants living with HIV are not getting any assistance from their employers as promised.

“This is a big problem considering that it appears that it’s the controlling officers that aren’t honouring the remittance of their two per cent from their ORT to help their employees living with HIV,” he said.

Njolomole suspected that to some extent the controlling officers are failing to honour this due to inconsistent and low funding which has hit government departments and ministries in recent months.

At the time of the switch from cash to food supplements, the media reported that there were 40,000 civil servants who were living with HIV.

Malawi has one million people living with HIV and half of them are on life prolonging Antiretroviral (ARV) drugs.

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