Malawi: Bank account deadline to tackle 'ghost workers'

Classroom in Malawi
Image caption Some teachers are posted to remote areas where there are no banks

The deadline has passed for Malawi's civil servants to open a bank account or risk not being paid.

The government wants to pay its employees through banks to eradicate "ghost workers" - who draw salaries but never report for work.

Some trades unions have said the changes have been introduced too quickly.

The BBC's Joel Nkhoma in the capital says there has been fierce competition from banks to win new customers.

The government has been trying for years to rid its payroll of non-existent workers, he says.

No specific figures have been given about the sums of money being lost each year to ghost workers, but it is believed to run into thousands of dollars.

Late last year the treasury announced that all civil servants must open a bank account by 1 February or risk not being paid at the end of the month.

Most senior civil servants in cities are believed to have bank accounts already, but people working in rural areas, junior clerks and messengers are paid in cash, our reporter says.

Many of these workers are worried about the bureaucracy they will now face, he says.

"I am not amused about this new system, knowing that we can expect big queues at the banks during the pay periods," a primary school teacher in Lilongwe, who asked not to be named, told the BBC.

"But what's more, our salaries are already very small. Given that the banks will slice out some taxes, that only makes matters worse for us. I am just not keen about the whole thing," she said.

Malawi Congress of Trade Union President Luther Mambala told the BBC such civil servants "need more time" to open accounts.

The position of the (MCTU) is backed by the Malawi Teachers' Union which says some civil servants are posted in very remote areas not serviced by banks.

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