A simmering tension at the Anti Corruption Bureau threatens to reach a boiling point next month where employees at the graft busting body will stage a sit-in, accusing their Director General Martha Chizuma of being greedy after she negotiated for a huge personal pay hike without considering the rest of employees.
While she is supposed to be getting K2, 900,000, a government set salary for ACB Director General, she personally negotiated a salary of over K5, 000,000 disregarding and throwing all other employees at the bureau under the bus.
By extension this means she gets double than what her collgues at the same grade like the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) or Ombudsman get.
The irate employees have since penned Chizuma asking for a consideration of pay hike within 21 days after which they have threated to go on an indefinite strike. The 21 days will elapse on September 4.
According to impeccable sources, there is growing frustration in the bureau after employees learnt that their Director General receives almost double what is allocated to her office as she personally negotiated her terms with the appointing authority.
Employees, speaking on condition of anonymity, claim that they have been pushing for pay rise to match the cost of living in line with staff conditions of service but their demands have yielded nothing hence opting for a strike.
The notice of intention to hold strike has been communicated to Secretary for Labour with copies to the office of the Director General at ACB.
“Take notice that all employees of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) are in dispute with the Office of the Director General of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) regarding the application and enforcement of the ACB’s Staff Terms and Conditions of Service (2018)…to revise salaries” reads the communication which quotes articles of the Staff Terms and Conditions of Service which compel the Bureau to revise salaries to reflect increase in cost of living.
Sources say initially there were supposed to hold the strike last month but the DG, through her deputy Hilary Chilomba, resorted to threatening those leading the process that their contracts will not be renewed.
All employees of the bureau have their contracts renewed every three years and this is what the authority at the bureau uses to silence employees who may want to raise concerns against maladministration.
“But now we are ready for anything. We have brainstormed and consulted widely, we are ready to face her. She needs to resolve these issues. She cannot be the only person benefitting when we are the people that define the Bureau. Without us she is nothing hence she needs to be considerate. We are not relenting on this” said one frustrated employee.
What angers employees at the Bureau even more is the fact that apart from the hefty pay given to their boss she is also entitled to more benefits which include 24-hour security from Malawi Police Service and a well-guarded home at presidential villas.
According to some employees they have been pushing for improved personal security especially following the death of one of the senior members of the Bureau Issa Njaunju who was brutally killed during the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) regime in what is believed as the regime-sponsored war against the Bureau.
The employees argue that it is unreasonable to restrict such security to the Director General when everyone at the Bureau faces the same risk. Njaunju was Director of Administration and Corporate Affairs who was never involved in investigation or prosecution which essentially defines the work of the Bureau.
Chizuma, unlike her predecessor(s), does not take a leading role in prosecution. She is currently involved in prosecuting the case involving former minister of energy who alongside former presidential advisor Chris Chaima and Aford President Enoch Chihana are accused of attempting to influence fuel deals. Even in this one her presence is dodgy as she prefers to delegate juniors.
Two months ago when the matter went to court she was reportedly outside the country and the other two lawyers Chrispin Khunga and Imran Saidi were also, deliberately, absent leaving the matter in the hands of someone new.
In the case involving Vice President Saulos Chilima she is not involved. On the day Chilima was arrested in November last year she was not present neither has she attended any court session which is a departure from practice where top most bosses at the Bureau who happen to be lawyers take lead in such high-profiled cases.
Employees are also questioning Chizuma’s globetrotting where, since last year, she has been going outside the country for official duties almost every month.
Just in the last two months Chizuma has been to six different countries which include Angola, United Kingdom, Austria, South Africa, Kenya and Egypt.
Chizuma’s salary has not only raised eyebrows at the Bureau but in the public service where other officers such as the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Law Commissioner, Ombudsman and Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) are also pushing for pay hike to match what is given to the ACB boss who is on the same grade.
The graft-busting body’s Director General is on grade D and has a monthly salary allocation of K2.9 million according to budget documents we have reviewed. But Chizuma gets about K5.3 million a month – a salary – an increase which was justified on account of the sensitivity of the office she holds.
As Ombudsman Chizuma had a salary of about K3.2 million which included honorarium from the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) on her role as a commissioner – an entitlement which is extended to the law commissioner.
Chizuma’s current pay is way above the DPP whose grade is C or equivalent to PS as the monthly salary allocation to this office is K2.6 million. Meanwhile the DPP, according to impeccable sources, is also demanding a pay hike to match the ACB Director a development the Public Appointments Committee (PAC) fears would bring chaos in the public service as it works to push for harmonization of wages in public service.
“This is totally unacceptable. We cannot have people negotiate for salaries in the public sector; this will bring chaos. The justification that the current ACB Director was getting more than is offered for her current position from her previous job as Ombudsman does not make sense.
Government was not under obligation to pick her for the job – they should have settled for someone who would accept the set salary scale. This ought to be cured otherwise we cannot have a free-for all salary structure in the public service” said a member of parliament who sits in PAC.