The Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) has commissioned an inquiry into conflicts eating into the fabric of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development.
Last week, the conflicts culminated into district commissioners (DCs), with support from two directors at the ministry, petitioning President Joyce Banda over what they say are their delayed promotions.
We have just learnt that following The Nation and Weekend Nation stories last week on the infighting at the ministry, OPC has set up a three-man task force to investigate matters surrounding the alleged promotion delays, allegations of management lapses at the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and in all councils.
The team comprises Principal Secretary (PS) for University Development Dr. McThail Magwira, PS for the Civil Service Commission Dickson Chunga and Harry Chabinga, director of finance for the Malawi Defence Force. The team started its work on Tuesday, August 14 2012.
The task force has been meeting officials from the Local Government Ministry, Local Government Service Commission (Lascom), DCs, directors of finance and human resources from Central Region districts at Golden Peacock Hotel.
Task force chairperson Dr. Magwira said his team will work day and night to complete the task on schedule.
â€œWe are about to finish with headquarters, we have also started meeting DCs from the Central Region. We hope to move to the North on Sunday and Blantyre on Wednesday,â€ he said in an interview on Thursday.
Expected to complete its investigations in 21 days, the task force has seven main tasks to perform, according to their terms of reference (ToRs).
In the preamble, a copy of the ToRs states that OPC has â€œcome across reports alleging that the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Developmentâ€™s management and operations leave a lot to be desired.â€
â€œIn order to establish the truth regarding these allegations, the Office of the President and Cabinet has decided to institute an investigationâ€¦.,â€ reads the preamble to the task force ToRs.
Specific ToRs include:
- To study the current recruitment and promotion procedures and processes at the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development headquarters, city, municipal, town and district councils with a view to identifying management practices that are affecting on meritocracy and equity in recruitment and staff promotions
- To establish the institutional and operations challenges which local government authorities (city, municipal, town and district councils) are facing in the absence of the Local Government Service Commission.
- To examine the current staff profiles in the management echelons of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development headquarters, city, municipal, town and district councils and provide an objective assessment of their qualification and suitability for local government service.
- To assess the robustness of management and operational systems at the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development headquarters with a view to determining their efficacy in fostering transparency and accountability in the discharge of official business.
- To assess the role of the Local Government Finance Committee in relation to the promotion of financial management and accountability in local authorities.
- To investigate such matter and make such findings as are incidental to and connected with the foregoing terms of reference
- To prepare a report of the afore-stated ToRs containing short, medium and long term recommendations aimed at addressing identified managerial and operational weaknesses.
â€œThe investigation should take 21 days, including report writing and its submission to the Chief Secretary to Government,â€ concludes a copy of ToRs.
Meanwhile, we have established that the promotions DCs are fighting for were a non-starter because Treasury never issued an Establishment Warrant (EW) since 2005 for the new positions and grades, meaning that government could not budget for the same.
Establishment Warrants, now being issued by the Department of Human Resource Management and Development (DHRM&D), create a position on the government scale to allow for the creation of a budget line.
According to documents in our possession, the first local government EW since 2005 was issued on 25th April 2011.
â€œAt that time, we could not start anything because the budget was already in course. It is in the current budget that money has been allocated for the exercise,â€ said Mike Majabula, deputy director of management services at the DHRM&D.
The warrant establishes between five and seven positions in each of the 29 councils.
â€œThe above posts have been created under the establishment of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development effective 25th April, 2011,â€ reads the EW signed by Isaac Zimba-Bondo.
According to documents, DHRM&D has allocated K160 million to local councils through the National Local Government Finance Committee to cater for basic pay and leave grants at council level.
This is enough to take care of any increments to perks for promoted DCs and other officers in councils, according to Majabula.