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Retired civil servants pen Ombudsman on benefits

Capital Hill

Williams Banda

Frustrated by never-ending delays by the Treasury to pay them their gratuities after retiring from the Civil Service, some pensioners have penned the office of the Ombudsman to investigate causes of the delay.

In a letter, the pensioners claim that they retired from the Civil Service between 10 and 13 months ago.

They say a delay of more than 30 days is unacceptable but a delay of more than 90 days is unjustifiable.

“When a civil servant retires, he/she is supposed to be paid his gratuity/ retirement money at the date of his or her retirement or at least within 30 days. We have noted with dismay that this is not happening and the Minister of Finance and Secretary to the Treasury do not care. It is taking between 12 and 18 months for retired civil servants to receive their gratuity money,” the letter reads

They claim, in the letter, that when the monies are finally paid, the value is often watered down by the weakening value of the Kwacha against currencies such as the United States Dollar, the British Pound Sterling and the South African Rand, making it difficult for them to establish retirement homes.

“In Malawi, and perhaps universally, the most basic and important need is shelter, then food and health needs. There aren’t many civil servants who can afford to build or procure a house while in service with a monthly salary income.

“Although they are in retirement, do not forget about their other responsibilities associated with extended families. After retirement, most of them still have school or college-going children who need support in terms of fees and other necessities,” the letter adds.

Ministry of Finance spokesperson Williams Banda conceded that there were delays, blaming the development on a legacy problem at the ministry which has created a backlog of gratuities to be paid out.

He also said the Treasury has been changing the system of gratuity payment from issuing cheques to electronic transfers into pensioners’ accounts.

“I am with the Minister of Finance [Felix Mlusu] right here at the Pensions Department to see how things are being done. We have resolved the legacy problem we had and are doing all we can to clear the backlog,” he said.

Banda also said there was a backlog because of the increased number of voluntary pensioners, especially teachers.

Banda said, even before pensioners get their gratuities, they get annuities— which is basically the money they get on the 14th of every month to sustain themselves.

He also said, where a pensioner has a pressing need like that of school fees, for example, a special arrangement of part-payment is made for that purpose as the other chunk is being prepared.

Office of the Ombudsman spokesperson Arthur Semba said, whenever they receive letters of that nature, they take requisite action.

“Issues of pension are within our jurisdiction and we receive even a thousand letters with such information. I need to check our records to see if we have received this particular letter but we handle many of such cases,” he said.

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