Budget and Finance Committee of Parliament Wednesday grilled Accountant General Jean Munyenyembe over delayed payments to suppliers of goods and services by government ministries, departments and agencies caused by the rolling out of the new Ifmis.
Members of the committee told Munyenyembe that delays were also affecting the receipt of their allowances, which are also coming in bits and pieces.
The lawmakers said they were not impressed with the rollout of the new Integrated Financial Management Information System (Ifmis) which is hurting many people and businesses due to delayed payments.
Some members of the committee even suggested going back to the old Ifmis as one way of reducing the torture on suppliers of goods and services.
But Munyenyembe defended the new Ifmis, saying most of the challenges faced in the early days have been resolved.
She said the challenges that were there with the new Ifmis were to do with end-users, who were having some challenges because not all of them were trained before government rolled out the new Ifmis.
“Because of the support that they are getting from the core-team members or super users, a lot of them now are able to use the system and they are able to operate with minimal supervision and when they have issues, they always escalate them to the super users and the super users are assisting.
“As such, the rate at which the vouchers were being returned has been reduced and we hope that, very soon, we should be having no issues,” Munyenyembe said.
She added that the other issue that caused delayed payments was that when they were rolling out the new Ifmis, they had not yet rolled out the Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT) mode of payment.
She said government has stopped using cheques and was using EFT as a mode of payment.
“Because it was not yet ready, we agreed with Reserve Bank [of Malawi] (RBM), our bank, to use the bank transfer method which required a lot of manual intervention. This resulted in too much paperwork which made the work tedious for most MDAs, Accountant General, RBM and commercial banks.
“That’s where most MDAs are having problems because, by the time we rolled out the EFT, most MDAs had prepared payments which they wanted to go through the bank transfer system. But since the EFT was ready, we asked them to go back and prepare the payments the EFT way because of the challenges we were facing with the bank transfer method,” Munyenyembe said.
She noted that up to now, most of the MDAs are indeed complaining that they have not received their payments because of unresolved issues regarding payments which were made that time.
Munyenyembe was also quick to note that the payment vouchers are prepared at the ministry and that her office starts preparing the payment when they have got the payment vouchers.
She said with EFT, they have to make a thorough check which takes some time because they are aware that, once the payment is approved, the supplier gets the money immediately.
Unlike with the past method, when cheques we being used, Munyenyembe said a mistake could be corrected before the cheque was cashed out but with EFT, the payment is instant; therefore, the need to ensure that the right person gets the money.
He said where there are no issues, a payment is processed within 72 hours.
In 2018, the Malawi Government awarded a tender to supply Ifmis software to Zimbabwe-based Twenty Third Century Systems.
The new Ifmis replaced the old version of the software Epicor 7.3, which was due for upgrading since it was installed in 2005.
Findings by British forensic auditors Baker Tilly in 2013 established that the old Ifmis was grossly abused, especially by lower management accountants in the Civil Service, resulting in the plunder of K23 billion dubbed Cashgate