Malawi gov’t officials reject OPC directive on self-drive

Directors and other senior officers in government departments have reacted furiously to Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) over its decision to bar them from self-driving official vehicles.

The senior civil servants, from Grade D (P2) and above, were given authority by the Bingu wa Mutharika regime to self-drive official government vehicles.

However, the Joyce Banda admin, in a circular number 20/04/27 dated 25th November 2013 and signed by the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Hawa Ndilowe, has removed the privilege, a development that has angered the officers.

Hawa Ndilowe: Government Chief Secretary issues directive
Hawa Ndilowe: Government Chief Secretary issues directive

The employees have expressed “concern with shock on the directive” and have asked the OPC to rescind its decision forthwith as it will jeopardize efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery.

In their letter dated 17th February 2014 and addressed to the Chief Secretary, the concerned officers say they do not understand the motive of the circular and have warned the move would compromise service delivery in government.

“We note that by removing this only privilege, you have removed legitimate expectations after being allocated and self-driving the vehicles for more than two years… We feel that this is unholy, unrighteous and demotivation to the concerned officers,” reads part of the letter which Nyasa Times has a copy.

When government came up with the idea to allocate them vehicles, the disgruntled officers claim, they thought it was the beginning of a step in the right direction.

“By the mere fact that these officers were given such authority, government portrayed positive image for the civil service in view of the public sector reform government is currently implementing. This was a motivation to the directors and other civil servants,” the officers write in their letter to OPC.

The peeved officers further quote another circular on government vehicle purchase scheme Ref. No.  15/15/7 of 19th December 2013 which they say provided a big motivator to them to be more dedicated to work as they self-drive the vehicles.

“This gave hope that this was a caring civil service that realises potential and better way of improving services in the service… We saw that the next approval would be medical scheme, which is fundamental to the welfare of directors and other senior staff as it is applied to principal secretaries.

“It should be noted that most of the directors are loyal civil servants and have contributed a lot to the development of this country for over 30 years. In this regard, we feel it is retrogressive to the functions of the ministries, departments, and agencies and demoralizing to the directors and senior officers to snatch the vehicles from them,” the officers state.

The senior government employees also claim since they were allocated government vehicles for self-drive, there had been a significant improvement in service delivery within their departments.

For instance, the officers cited security of government vehicles had improved and theft minimised.

Further, there had also been manageable maintenance bills due to proper care of the vehicles and improvement in use of fuel as most drivers stay far from their offices.

The officers also say with the vehicles, they ably work long and odd hours including holidays and weekends, a development that has also contributed to reduction of incidences of general abuse of motor vehicles.

“As such directors respond to emergencies at any time with speed, unlike when the vehicle is not readily available. The removal of the privilege will jeopardize their efficiency and effectiveness in their daily job performance,” reads the letter.

Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) Spokesperson, Arthur Chipenda, could not be reached for his comment on the letter.

According to Nyasa Times investigations, most of these directors and senior officers are driving the latest models of Toyota Corollas.

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