S C A N D A L
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Former workers for the Millennium Villages Programme (MVP) in the country have threatened to drag the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP) Malawi office to the industrial relations court for failure to pay out their pension, two years after their contracts expired.
Seventeen former MVP employees who were contract service holders with UNDP between 2006 and 2011 argue that the UN headquarters duly authorised payment of the said pension, but that the local office 'for unknown reasons' has been silent for two years.
In an email reponse o n M o n d a y, UNDP Communications Assistant Steven Kamponda said his office is aware about the issue, but is yet to make any decision.
Lawyer for the ex-employees Timothy Kalembo, has warned the UN body he would be commencing court proceedings if the payment is not made within 14 days from December 6, last year.
"Our clients have now instructed us that your office should make proper arrangements, enabling them to sign the certificate of no contest as required by their contracts and pay them their pension within 14 days.
"If we do not hear from you within the stated period, our clients have instructed us, we shall commence legal proceedings against you, without informing you whatsoever," reads a letter signed for by Kalembo.
The letter says despite persistent reminders on the matter, nothing has been done.
"Our cl ients have attempted to remind your honourable office to fulfil this contractual obligation, to no avail. They strongly contend that the conduct shown by your office is tantamount to violation of their right to fair labour practices," reads the letter.
The ex-employees say they are entitled to be paid a lump sum, in lieu of pension equivalent to 8.33 percent of the monthly remuneration rate to their whole remuneration, according to article 6 Part B of the specific contracts, which they individually signed with the UNDP.
They say payments are long overdue and should have been made by 2011.
An e-mail communication from Hanrietta De Beer of Office Human Resource (OHR) at the UNDP headquarters in New York, to former UNDP resident representative, Richard Dictus shows that country's office was cleared to handle the matter.
"On behal f of the Director of OHR, I confirm that in consultation with the Regional Bureau for Africa, exceptional approval is granted for the lump sum arrangement for Service Contracts (SC) that will provide 8.33 per cent of the base monthly remuneration in lieu of pension.
"The exception is also granted retroactively, as an interim measure until resources are put in place for coverage under a proper scheme as the one that WFP has accessed. Please find attached templates for the SC and Certificates of No Contest," reads the communication, dated June 20, 2011.
In a response to an e-mailed questionnaire on the matter yesterday, the UNDP said it has been in touch with its headquarters on the issue, since 2012.
"As contractual matters have legal implications, the process of reaching an agreement was prolonged, and this was a unique case to UNDP. As per UNDP's established procedures, service contract holders are considered as consultants, and as such, they do not participate in the United Nations pension scheme.
"However, with the recent revision of the UNDP service contract guidelines, provisions could be made to encourage service contract holders to participate in national and/or other private pension schemes. At present, we are in the process of finalizing paperwork to have the UNDP's final decision on this issue," reads the response from Kamponda.