There are fears that Malawi's civil servants might not receive their August salaries amidst suspicions that government has diverted part of the funding for the salaries to fund the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) campaign during the forthcoming parliamentary and ward by-elections.
Malawi is to hold by-elections on October 17 in three constituencies that include Lilongwe Nsozi North, Lilongwe City South East, and Nsanje Lalanje and in three wards-Mayani North in Dedza, Mtsiliza in Lilongwe and Ndirande Makata in Blantyre.
However, the by-elections have left the ruling party panicking following the recent intense pressure and criticism on government for underperformance in almost all sectors. The party also fears that a loss during the by-elections will underpin the general feeling of the population and observers that the DPP is losing popularity.
Malawi Government's Secretary to the Treasury Ben Botolo has confirmed that "there might be a slight delay" in payment of the August 2017 salaries but he denied that the money has been diverted in any way or to fund the ruling party campaign.
He explained that the delay would be due to late submission of necessary government documentation to enable the Office of the Accountant General process the salaries.
"As a standing guideline, Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are required to submit the GP5A (Government Paper No. 5A) documentation by 5th of each month for funding of salaries by Treasury and to submit Payment Vouchers to the Accountant General by 16th of each month. The Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development has, however, noted with regrets that this time table has not been followed by some MDAs," said Botolo.
He added that Government is currently making all efforts to ensure that the delay should not be severe.
Botolo also said that the likely affected MDAs are the National Assembly under budgetary vote 80, the Malawi Police Service under vote 341, the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining and all District Councils except Likoma District.
The Secretary to the Treasury went on to apologize to the civil servants for the delay saying: "Government highly values the role civil servants play in the delivery of public services in the country and it is therefore, committed to ensuring that all civil servants are well motivated and that their pay is timely".
However, in an interview a senior accountant in one the affected MDAs said it is not correct to insinuate that there was a delay in submission of documentation as his department made the submission in good time as per the set deadline.
"There is not truth in what is being said. What we know is that Treasury used part of the funding for the August salaries to fund the leave grant arrears for the striking teachers who were all paid last month and at the beginning of this month.
"We are also reliably informed that some money has been used to pay outstanding payments to DPP functionaries who do business with government to enable them comfortably help the party in the by-elections," said the senior officer.
Due to lack of fiscal discipline, Government has of late been caught failing to fund essential activities such as health and education while a number of its ministries, notably the Ministry of Education (teachers), have been failing to pay their employees on time.