Malawian Judges have drawn up a list of new demands, including entitlements to at least two vehicles, one of which should be a Mercedes Benz.
According to the leaked revised Conditions of Service for Judicial Officers whose effective date—if approved by Parliament—would be July 2012, the Chief Justice shall be entitled to three vehicles for official and private use “provided that one of the three vehicles
shall be a Mercedes Benz.”
For the Justices of Appeal, judges and the registrar, the proposal is that they be given two vehicles, one of which should be a Mercedes Benz.
The judges, who are already entitled to 4 wheel drive luxury Toyota Prado, also want their fuel perks to jump by an average of 120 percent, settlement allowance to increase by 1,500 percent and furniture allowances to surge by 60 percent.
They also want the Chief Justice to have a retirement package that is almost similar to that of a retired State Vice-President, among other demands.
The latest demands—contained in the revised Conditions of Service for Judicial Officers come at a time the national budget is besieged by a 61 percent pay hike for civil servants that will cost taxpayers roughly US$14.2 million.(MK5.7 billion).
It also comes at the center of a perks demand by another branch of government—Parliament—where 193 lawmakers are pushing for fuel allowances of 500 litres a month each as agreed in 2008 and which they want paid in arrears dating back to 2009.
The backdated payment could see each parliamentarian carting home US$25,000 (MK10 million), a payout that could cost a tax-payer over US$10 million (MK4 billion).
All these demands are falling on an economy depressed by near negative growth rates, high interest rates, a volatile local currency, monthly fuel price increases, runaway inflation, and a shrinking resource envelop.
Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) national secretary Chris Chisoni described the judges’ demands as a sign of “greed” and said the Malawi economy cannot afford such “sinful benefits” to judges.
“The problem is that these judges want to match their perks to those being received by some in the Executive branches. On the other hand, these judges have sensed a weakness in the country’s leadership and are exploiting it to their advantage, but to the country’s
The judges also want government to give them free housing, which is a break from the consolidated wage policy or clean wage bill that government adopted for the public sector in 2005.
Justices of Appeal want their fuel allowances to jump by 150 percent from 600 litres to 1 500 litres per month to subsidise their driving from their homes, which are within the cities they work in.
They also propose that fuel allowances for judges double from 500 litres a month to 1 000 litres. Fuel allocation for the Chief Justice has not changed at 2 500 litres.
The new conditions also propose that a spouse who accompanies a judicial officer shall be entitled to two-thirds of the officer’s subsistence allowance entitlement whereas a child would be entitled to a third of the officer’s subsistence allowance.
There have also been proposals to settlement allowance, which applies under three circumstances: on each occasion that the officer is required to move his or her household effects to a new station on posting or transfer; twice on each occasion that he or she is required
to move from one house to another in any one year and each time he or she is required to temporarily vacate a house for a period exceeding one month while at the same work station..
The judges also want diplomatic passports for themselves and their spouses even in retirement. They also demand a paid for paternity leave of up to 30 consecutive calendar days once every three years.
The Judiciary wants the Chief Justice to be provided with a retirement home, a motor vehicle to be maintained by government and to be replaced once every five years; monthly fuel allowance of 500 liters, super VIP medical cover, a driver, a gardener, a domestic servant, a cook and security detail.
“Provided that these additional benefits shall cease to accrue upon the retired chief justice engaging in active employment…, reads the Conditions of Service.
This proposed retirement package competes with that of the former Vice President who also gets one motor vehicle, a government house, cook, Chauffeur , gardener, free medical services and security detail, among other items.
Both Secretary to the Treasury Randson Mwadiwa and Attorney General Anthony Kamanga last week confirmed that the judges have put in a request as per the Republican Constitution, which states that Conditions of Service for Judicial Officers to reviewed every three
“We were asked for our view point and we gave it to the Office of the President and Cabinet,” Mwadiwa said when asked for details on the request from the Judiciary.
On his part, Kamanga said he only knew that Treasury and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament were still conferring.
PAC chairperson Henry Mussa confirmed on Tuesday that his committee was looking at the revised document. He could not, however, say how far the discussions have gone. PAC is mandated by the Constitution to approve salaries and perks for the Judiciary.
A senior Treasury official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described the judges’ demands as outrageous.
“This is blackmail, daylight robbery because they know too well that
this economy can’t afford such kind of luxury to a certain section of people when many can’t even afford to buy a loaf of bread, “he said