Kickbacks on chiefs’salaries irk govt

Joyce Banda and chiefs
Joyce Banda and chiefs

Malawi Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development has decried the increasing number of complaints about senior traditional leaders soliciting bribes from their surbodinates as inducement to submit their names for addition on the government payroll for chiefs’ honorarium.

In a response to The Nation questionnaire on Friday following revelations that senior traditional leaders in some districts are taking advantage of the desperation among their juniors to have their names introduced on the government payroll, the ministry said it will deal with any chief involved in the malpractice.

The Nation has learnt that the desperation to get on the payroll has worsened among chiefs following President Joyce Banda’s announcement in May this year when opening Parliament’s 2013/14 budget meeting that government would bring onto the official register 20 000 chiefs, consisting 15 000 village heads (VHs) and 5 000 group village heads (GVHs).

“The ministry has indeed received reports that some traditional authorities in some districts have been demanding inducements from village heads and group village heads for them to be included on the government payroll as per the President’s directive.

“[We] wish to clearly state that the ministry, through the district commissioners’ [DCs] offices, has names of all chiefs who are not on payroll. The ministry has been using that list to identify those eligible to be included on the government payroll.

“Therefore, paying of any inducements to any T/A would not guarantee one’s inclusion onto the payroll,” said Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development spokesperson Maganizo Mazeze.

He said the conduct to solicit the kickbacks is tantamount to corruption and abuse of office by the chiefs.

Some village heads in T/A Chilooko’s area in Ntchisi told The Nation last week that their GVHs had been collecting inducements ranging from K10 000 (about $25) to K50 000 (about $125) purportedly on behalf of the T/A to include their names on the list of chiefs to be added on the government payroll.

In an interview, VH Somba of Ntchisi said he paid K10 000 to his senior authority following an order that those who wanted to have their names added on the government payroll needed to pay something.

In a separate interview, VH Chimbatata in the area on Friday said he paid K15 000 (about $37.50) to a GVH he said told him that he was taking the money to T/A Chilooko.

On Wednesday, Ntchisi DC Yamikani Chitete confirmed getting complaints from several VHs, including VH Somba, saying the chiefs also informed the council that they paid inducements to their senior authorities to be included on the list.

In an interview on Tuesday, T/A Chilooko denied receiving any kickbacks from the chiefs to add them on the payroll, saying some of his GVHs could be hiding behind his name to get the alleged bribes.

Divisions and disorder last week also reportedly erupted in Thyolo over the same chiefs’ honorarium issue with police arresting eight people in connection with an attack on houses of the newly elevated Senior Chief Thomas and T/A Changata on suspicion that they had been getting bribes to crown new chiefs to enjoy the honorarium.

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