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  • Christine Chumbler
    Feb 26, 2003
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      'Ghost Employees Deplete Govt Coffers'

      African Church Information Service
      February 24, 2003
      Posted to the web February 25, 2003

      Hobbs Gama

      Things have turned sour in several government departments in Malawi,
      where civil servants have not been paid salaries on time. A situation
      of ghost
      workers created by senior government officials, is depleting the

      Teachers in primary and secondary schools, being the most affected,
      abandoned classes in a number of schools in several districts around
      country, including Blantyre.

      The issue of ghost workers came out strongly following an audit
      instituted by
      International Monetary Fund (IMF) late last year. It was discovered
      that the
      government's inflated wage bill was a result of huge numbers of
      workers created by officials in six ministries.

      Names of deceased staff, retired workers, and of fake individuals were
      noticed on payrolls. The education ministry was the most affected.

      The Teachers Association of Malawi (TUM) has since taken the treasury
      task, accusing it of being insensitive to the plight of teachers, who
      the largest part of public workers. Out of a total 120,000 workforce in
      public sector, 60,000 are teachers.

      TUM General Secretary, Lucien Chikadza, said morale was low in all
      education divisions around the country. He blamed the ministry of
      headquarters for the mess.

      Towards the end of last year, workers in education, agriculture and
      ministries went for Christmas and New Year holidays without pay.

      In the past two years, salaries have been paid irregularly.

      Finance Minister, Friday Jumbe, has since apologised to teachers and
      promised speedy action, saying teachers were victims because the
      wage bill was plagued with a lot of problems.

      "The situation is regrettable because issues of salaries are not
      The wage bill in the ministry has been fluctuating when it is supposed
      remain constant," said Jumbe.

      Last month, an IMF team made its seventh visit to Malawi since 2002,
      accused the government of spending beyond budget passed by parliament.

      The Fund suspended a US$56 million aid until issues of financial
      mismanagement and poor governance were resolved, and presidential
      limited, among other conditions.

      Subsequently, Malawi's bilateral donors , the United States of
      Britain and the European Union, have also closed their aid taps.

      Angered by President Muluzi's reckless spending, the World Bank is
      pressing the government to refund US$1.5 million in aid of various
      uncompleted projects. The EU is also demanding that the administration
      gives back about US$7 million, for similar reasons.


      UN blames Mugabe for crisis

      The United Nations food agency
      has said that the Zimbabwe
      Government is largely
      responsible for the
      humanitarian crisis there.

      The Zimbabwe crisis was "almost
      beyond comprehension" and could
      easily have been avoided, said
      James Morris, head of the World
      Food Programme.

      He pointed to President Robert Mugabe's land
      redistribution programme,
      which has left thousands of normally productive farms
      lying idle.

      Up to seven million people - half the population -
      need food aid, donors

      This year's harvest is expected to be even lower than
      in 2002 - just
      40% of normal.

      The government has also been accused of diverting food
      aid away from
      opposition areas.


      Mr Mugabe blames the food shortages on failed rains.

      He also says that his land reform programme should
      increase food
      production, because white farmers generally grew cash
      crops such as
      tobacco and paprika, while small-scale black farmers
      generally grow the
      staple food, maize.

      But Mr Morris disagreed.

      "This scheme (land reform) along
      with restrictions on private sector
      food marketing and a monopoly on
      food imports... are turning a drought
      that might have been managed into
      a humanitarian nightmare," he told
      lawmakers in the United States.

      Mr Morris said that he had held six
      meetings with Mr Mugabe in the past
      six months but had failed to
      persuade him to alter his economic
      policies or remove bureaucratic
      obstacles to food production or aid

      The head of the US Agency for
      International Development, Andrew
      Natsios, agreed.

      Zimbabwe had become "a basket
      case rapidly sliding into a disastrous
      famine that is politically induced," he

      A government audit reportedly
      shows that many of the farms seized
      from white farmers have been allocated to government
      ministers and
      officials, rather than landless blacks.

      In neighbouring Malawi, which was worst hit by the
      food shortages last
      year, the government says that the situation is
      improving this year.
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