IN a bid to stem widespread theft through forgery by its local staff, World Wildlife Fund for Nature has reviewed their salaries. The review was done in January, this year after years of persistent grumbling that foreign employees were better remunerated.
Director of Communications and Branding Kimunya Mugo told the 'Daily News' last year that WWF had commissioned an independent review of the local remuneration structure.
"An international independent company, Birches Group, was hired to assess all salary grades against the current market rates (government, NGO's, donors, UN and others)," Mr Mugo said in an e-mail message while responding to the 'Daily News' questions.
Mr Mugo, however, did not give details of exactly by what percentage had the salaries been increased. WWF also unveiled an audit report by Ernst & Young which established that 400,000 US dollars (approx. 624m/-) was stolen by local staff through forged hotel and taxi receipts and through corruption.
"It is important to note that theft occurred and this is simply unethical and is not warranted even if one earns a low income. "Increased salaries may help to reduce the urge to commit fraud," Mr Mugo argued when responding to concerns by some local staff who blamed poor perks as being behind the travel imprest forgeries.
"For example, a local programme officer may earn a fifth of what their foreign peers get which is paid in dollars," said one of the sacked staff who was implicated in the 624m/- theft early this year. The former WWF employee said remuneration does not consider one's qualifications and experience but rather nationality which frustrates local staff and encourages them to forge receipts to boost their meagre salaries.
"People who are called advisors here, who actually are foreigners with very little understanding of the situation on the ground earn more than team leaders who are often university lecturers or researchers holding a minimum of doctorate degrees. "The advisor may simply have a first or second degree," argued the source who preferred not to be identified. But Mr Mugo dismissed such cheap arguments saying, "It is incumbent on individuals to demonstrate integrity and stop such fraud.
In addition, the law of the land also provides for an avenue to address any labour-related grievances."Eight local staff members including the country director were either sacked or forced to resign in the course of the investigations after WWF Tanzania first noticed irregularities last December.
Four projects funded by Norwegian and US governments were affected by the fraud which forced Oslo to suspend funding last January. WWF International has agreed to refund the lost money to the donors.