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Claims against government hit K2 trillion

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Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda

Office of the Attorney General (AG) has said compensation claims from people against the government have gone up to K2 trillion.

The figure has been arrived at after officials carried out another assessment.

In October this year, AG Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda said the claims were standing at around K800 billion.

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By October 30 2020, the government owed claimants about K150 billion in judgement debts spanning from as long ago as 1995.

Chakaka Nyirenda told The Daily Times Thursday that, much as other claims were genuine, others were dubious, exaggerated and intended at taking advantage of government systems.

He said even though other cases pertained to judgements where billions were being claimed, the cases would be investigated and challenged in courts of law.

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“In regards to dubious claims, we are making some investigations because what we are saying is that there are two routes, some are criminal where we will be prosecuting people that made dubious claims against the government because, you know, lawyers have a duty to practice due diligence. So, in that regard, we can take them to task also,” he said.

The AG further said there had been cases where claimants did not exist as they either relocated long ago or died.

“For example, I have a claim— I will not mention the particulars— where we have over 2,800 claimants suing the government, each of them claiming millions. But when we did the investigations, we found that some people are too young to claim while others died a long time ago.

“Some would also fake an arrest by the police. Others would claim that they have contracts with the government when they forged documents. Not to sound [like I am] being racist, there are some people from the Asian community who had contracts with the government, were paid but they keep on coming to claim money,” he said.

Chakaka Nyirenda said the country could borrow a leaf from Kenya, where, before the AG enters a consent order, he or she gets a piece of advice from a committee on contracts that have exceeded a certain threshold.

“So, what we are saying is that— of course, it’s a proposal that we will take to Parliament— maybe there should be a law or an administrative procedure, that can be done internally or regulatory, that before an Attorney General enters a consent order, a committee has to look into the claim… For example, if we say, in cases where settlements above K50 million are involved, it should not only be the Attorney General looking into the claim,” he said.

Among other issues, Chakaka Nyirenda mentioned the ambulance deal in which the Ministry of Health wanted to procure 300 ambulances from a South African company.

No ambulance was procured but the government has to pay over K30 billion as damages over breach of contract.

But, earlier, Malawi Law Society (MLS) President Patrick Mpaka defended the lawyers, saying they were trustworthy and dependable based on the standards expected of them.

He said the society had a vibrant disciplinary committee that deals with any cases of professional misconduct reported.

In a statement released Thursday, the society has called upon all duty-bearers holding any legal or political office to remain true to, and consistent with, the spirit of the law in performing their functions.

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