Foreign missions unpaid for upto 4 months, govt says there’s no money

ZAMBIAN diplomats are languishing due to government’s failure to fund foreign mission for the past four months.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has since asked diplomats and workers at Zambian missions abroad to forget about their September to December 2019 foreign service allowances until government finds some resources to clear the arrears.

Last month, foreign missions received their September 2019 salaries but in a memo addressed to all heads and acting heads of mission, Ministry of Foreign Affairs permanent secretary for administration Dr Ronald Simwinga advised them to consider that money as funding for January allowances.

Simwinga explained that government operates on a cash basis and not accrual basis, and as such, diplomats needed to forget the arrears owned in 2019 and focus on the the 2020 calendar funding.

“I wish to bring to your attention that the funding which was received in January, 2020 for personal emoluments and reflected as being for the month of September, 2019 should actually be regarded as funding for January, 2020. Kindly be informed that the government operates on a cash basis accounting and not on an accrual basis. By copy of this minute, all missions are hereby informed to adjust the accounts records regarding the above funding accordingly,” stated Dr Simwinga.

“The Ministry, through the office of the Secretary to the Treasury at Ministry of Finance is working out modalities on how to liquidate the 2019 backlog regarding personal emoluments which will be regarded as arrears for the period 2019. By copy of this minute, the mission is hereby advised to bring to the attention of all diplomats the contents of the circular.”

A source at the ministry explained that missions abroad had varying backlogs, with the worst standing at 4 months.

“Diplomats have two salaries so to speak, there is a salary that is paid in the local banks here at the same time as all other civil servants. Then there is what is called foreign service allowance which is the main income paid as emoluments from the monthly grant that comes from here. So local salaries are upto date, but there is no funding for foreign service allowances. That’s what the PS was explaining in that memo that the treasury is dry. The country is basically broke,” sources explained.

“So some missions are in four months arrears, others are on three months, others two… just like that. But we are not upto date with funding for that. That’s why some diplomats are sending back complaints that how are they expected to survive if they forgo four emoluments for months? It’s a tricky situation, that’s why sometimes you hear that some missions divert funds for other activities towards emoluments because they fail to survive and some counties are quite expensive.”

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