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Malawi government holds cards on head count report publicity

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Publicity of a report on the head count exercise which the National Audit Office (Nao) has been conducting in the civil service is dependent on whether government submits it to Parliament, The Daily Times has learnt.

Nao announced in November that it would embark on a head count audit of the entire civil service.

A similar exercise was last carried out in 2008.

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The eight-year head count audit gap, which Nao attributed to financial constraints, came despite findings that the country’s public sector loses millions of kwacha annually through ghost workers in the civil service.

Nao spokesperson, Lawrence Chinkhunda, said in a written response on Friday that the office has endeavoured to achieve the audit objective of the head count and he expressed satisfaction with progress made.

Chinkhunda said the audit included a head count as well as human resource and payroll audits.

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He added that another process of compilation, which involves the application of further audit procedures for the audit to be complete, would be undertaken in the next phase, which includes the component of audit reporting.

Chinkhunda said the report would be submitted to the commissioners of the exercise— the government.

He hinted that it would be up to the government to refer the report to Parliament, which essentially means bringing the report into the public domain.

“The Auditor General’s reports are always presented in accordance with the provisions of Section 184 of the Constitution and the Public Audit Act no [number] 6 of 2003, respectively, and that has to be followed strictly. The Auditor General shall prepare the report as usual and forward it to those who commissioned the work.

“In conformity with the statutory requirements quoted above, the Auditor General’s reports are always made public once they have been tabled in Parliament as they are of public interest. However, you should be aware that not all reports go to Parliament especially if there are no serious and material issues,” said Chinkhunda.

He said Nao is satisfied with the pace of the exercise, observing that the exercise was conducted within the planned timeframe despite some delays at the beginning arising from technical and logistical challenges.

The exercise was carried out within four weeks and Chinkhunda said further stages of the audit process were in progress and that the report would be produced “as soon as possible”.

“Since the audit procedures were well planned, designed and instituted, and coupled with adequate publicity, we did not meet any material resistance one would expect. We received great cooperation from many stakeholders including Controlling Officers and employees themselves. They were all willing to assist to ensure that the audit process was carried out smoothly. The media also played a big role in creating awareness on the exercise. Together we reduced the overall risk of resistance to a minimum level,” said Chinkhunda.

It is hoped that the exercise would assist the government stem the problem of ghost workers.

In November, Ministry of Finance spokesperson, Nations Msowoya , acknowledged in our sister paper, The Sunday Times, that the ministries of health and education, by virtue of accounting for the largest number of civil servants, “tend to have a high risk of ghost workers”.

“Ministries of education and health, because they account for the largest number of civil servants, they tend to have a high risk of ghost workers and once we come across them action is taken to delete them,” Msowoya said.

He said government’s initiative to conduct a “comprehensive” head count is one of the measures initiated to stem the problem.

He said only after the exercise is carried out would Treasury be in a position to state whether it had an impact on the wage bill

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