There has been a backlash from commentators on the proposal Commissioners at the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) to have a roughly 170 percent pay rise as University of Malawi’s Chancellor College political scientist Blessings Chinsinga and lawyer Justin Dzonzi have warned as that passing them would have ripple effects on the already struggling economy.
MEC director of media and public relations Sangwani Mwafulirwa has confirmed about the proposals, according to a newspaper report in the Weekend Nation of Saturday October 17, 2015.
The paper reports that the proposals, coming a year after the commissioners’ perks were last adjusted, are contained in last month’s communication from the commissioners to the Public Appointments Committee (PAC) of Parliament which is mandated to determine the commissioners’ perks.
The proposal is pushing for an over K1.5 million jump in the commission chairperson’s monthly take-home package from the current K917 000 (totalled from honoraria, housing, hospitality, telephone and utilities allowances) to K2.4 million whereas that of other commissioners has been proposed at K1.9 from K730 500, representing an increase of 170 percent.
The proposed changes include a 150 percent jump in honoraria from K600 000 to K1.5 million for the chairperson and K475 000 to K1.2 million (153 percent increase) for the rest of the nine commissioners.
The commissioners are also proposing an increase in housing allowance from K200 000 to K750 000 and K160 000 to K600 000 for the chairperson and commissioners respectively. This represents a 275 percent hike in both cases.
On other allowances, the commissioners are proposing a sitting allowance of K100 000 from K15 000 and hospitality allowance of K60 000 from K40 000 for the chairperson.
They further recommend that the chairperson’s domestic allowance be moved to K45 000 from K20 000; residential ground telephone of K35 000 from K12 000; utilities from K30 000 to K55 000; per diem from K40 000 to K80 000 per night with fuel going up by 250 litres from the current 500 litres.
The commissioners’ sitting allowance has been pegged at K90 000 from K10 000 while hospitality allowance is at K50 000 from K30 000.
The commissioners also want their domestic allowances to be increased from K18 000 to K35 000, residential ground telephone from K10 000 to K30 000, utilities from K25 000 to K40 000, per diem to be adjusted to K80 000 from K30 000 per night while fuel should be put at 500 litres from 300 litres.
If the proposals are implemented, each of the nine commissioners will be carting home a monthly package of K1.9 million with the chairperson Justice Maxon Mbendera receiving almost K2.5 million.
The commissioners’ proposed changes exclude other existing benefits such as medical cover (MASM- VIP scheme which also covers their spouse, up to four children and two dependents), one four-wheel drive vehicle and a loan of K10 million during their four-year term.
The commissioners and chairperson also get K400 000 and K500 000, respectively, for furniture at the beginning of their term of office and $200 (about K116 000) and $250 (about K130 000) monthly as telephone allowances.
All the commissioners, including the chairperson, are also entitled to armed police guard, three private guards and burglar alarm system at their residences.
Currently, MEC has 10 commissioners including the chairperson who were appointed by former president Joyce Banda in 2012.
Meanwhile, the Weekend Nation report quoted Chinsinga giving the proposals a thumbs down, saying the were “out of tune” and that there are “ obscene and unreasonable” especially given the current state of the economy.
And lawyer Dzonzi, who is also executive director for Justice Link, wondered why the commissioners would make such a proposal when “the President publicly said the country was broke”.
He said “this is not the time to adjust salaries” and that it would be “careless” for PAC to approve the adjustments without taking a critical look at the country’s resource envelope.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :