Mbabane – The Ministry of Finance has admitted to having made a mistake in issuing ex-gratia payments to reappointed members of Emabandla.
The ministry’s communications officer, Setsabile Dlamini mentioned that with other relevant departments they were in the process of rectifying the mistake, without stating how they would do it. The communications officer mentioned that the members of Emabandla and some Regional Administrators (RAs) were issued their gratuities before they were reappointed to their new positions, something which should not have been the case.
The Financial Circular no.2 0f 2013, which is the remuneration framework for Eswatini politicians and parliamentarians and states the terms and conditions of service for politicians says reappointed members of Emabandla and regional administrators are not subject to receiving gratuities.
It also says politicians can only get their payments after vacating government service.
However, the communications officer’s response seemed to contradict what the Minister of Finance, Neil Rijkenberg said in earlier interviews. The minister had said there were many other gratuities his ministry was dealing with, and with patience on the part of the beneficiaries they would eventually laugh all the way to the bank. Rijkenberg said those who got theirs including Maziya were not treated preferentially but deserved their packages, and eventually all would come to the same level.
“We are not lent on a selective approach when dealing with what rightfully belongs to officers but are careful to follow the right processes,” Rijkenberg said.
“The terms and conditions of the 10th Parliament are provided for by the Finance Circular no.2 of 2013 and those who were paid their ex-gratia were paid in accordance to the Circular, however, as we may recall, the reappointed members of Emabandla and regional administrators assumed their new positions late and after they had been paid,” said the communications officer, adding that such resulted in others getting their ex-gratia while others did not. The communications officer stated that as a ministry they are aware that the reappointed officers were not entitled to the payments and that they are working at rectifying the anomaly accordingly.
Independent News has it in faith that some RAs and members of Emabandla received their ex-gratia payments and it remains to be seen if the money which was deposited in the various accounts will be reversed. Well-placed sources within the banking industry confided to Independent News that banks cannot reverse deposited money unless they have an approval from the beneficiary. They stated that alertness should be exercised each time a transaction is made or else one wrong deal can make one run from pillar to post.
One such person who received his ex-gratia is Ncumbi Maziya, who was one of the deputy commissioners of the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC), and said to have received a payment of over E600 000.
Chief Gija waiting for payment Themba Msibi declined to commit himself
His then superior, ex-chairman of the commission and now Manzini Regional Administrator (RA), Chief Gija Dlamini is one of those who still await payment of their ex-gratia. Deputy Speaker in the House of Assembly in the 10th Parliament, and now Lubombo Regional Administrator, Themba Msibi declined to commit himself in the matter, saying it was an issue that could be best explained by the ministry of finance.
“It is a personal matter that should be left to the employer and employee,” said Msibi, neither confirming nor declining having received his payment.
Drawn for comment, Matsanjeni North Member of Parliament and Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chairman, Phila Buthelezi could only express his distress over what he said was government’s delay in issuing out ex-officers’ ex-gratia payments.
The MP said it was frustrating not to receive what rightfully belongs to one after services rendered. He said he was aware that some ex-officers received their payments while others did not and that the reappointed were not entitled to benefit, however, since some were paid all the others must come to benefit.
“I am one of those who have not received anything and resting hopes that the money will come through,” said the MP.
The chairman said the ex-gratia payments should have been done by now considering that it has been two years since the officers vacated office, some of which were redeployed.
The chairman rested hopes that by the end of this year the money would be deposited to the owners’ accounts. Buthelezi stated that he was aware that government was in the process of dishing the money out but what is worrisome is that the disbursement is done individually, meaning some are known to have got it while some are still waiting.
“It was wrong that some were able to get the money while some are still waiting,” said the chairman when talking to Independent News.
Some ex-officers who are still waiting are the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) Chairman, now Manzini Regional Administrator (RA) Chief Gija Dlamini and his subordinates. While the RA did not get his, some of his deputies in one Ncumbi Maziya was said to have got his within the nick of time, something which raised questions to many who are in line.
The PAC Chairman declined to give names of those who are said to have already got theirs, saying they are known elsewhere.
“I am one of those that are resting hopes of getting the Bank’s In-Contact alerting me of the deposited money and with the faith I have in those responsible I will wait until then,” said the chairman.
He said he understood that government’s processes were not prompt in relation to other business sectors and that it was something that should be understood.
Former Manzini South Member of Parliament and ex-Minister of Public Service, Owen Nxumalo said the issuing of the ex-gratia payments to reappointed officers was a glaring violation of the Financial Circular no.2 of 2013 and the best way to deal with the anomaly was to pay everybody else, reappointed or not.
“To square things up the ministry can do one of two things, which is pay all the others or reverse the payments of those who benefited,” said the ex-MP.
On another note, Nxumalo opined that reappointed or not it was best that ex-officers were paid their ex-gratia. “It is a human thing to do, which is to pay for services done and this thing of withholding money is something that cannot work in the long run,” said Nxumalo, who received his ex-gratia after failing to return to the August House in 2018.
Nxumalo further mentioned that the Finance Circular no.2 of 2013 provided that it is not only the reappointed officers that are not to benefit from the e-gratia payments but re-elected members of parliament.
“However, we have gathered that some reelected MPs received their gratuities, which clearly is a breaching of the finance circular, and one wonders how some people go through the remuneration document,” said the ex-MP, adding that these are things that show poor administration at government level and some politicians should be called to account.
The Attorney General (AG), Sifiso Mashampu Khumalo was coy when asked to give a comment, saying the matter was an issue that could best be addressed by the ministry of finance.
The ex-gratia payment is a grant that is payable to former Parliamentarians and politicians to assist with the costs of adjusting to non-parliamentary life.
The ex-gratia payment is available to all Parliamentarians who fail to be reelected or re-appointed into the new Parliament.
In the event that the Parliamentarian does not fully serve the five year term, the ex-gratia payment will be pro-rated taking into account the actual period served.
Under no circumstances will a part year served be considered as a full year. Should the Parliamentarian be dismissed or removed from office due to misconduct or incompetence, the ex-gratia payment will be forfeited.
The ex-Gratia will be paid as once-off payment equal to twelve months (one year) basic salary before taxation for all Parliamentarians.
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