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Landlord locks out Ombudsman

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Owners of Saint Martin’s House which accommodates national and Central Region offices of the Office of Ombudsman in Lilongwe have closed the offices of the public advocate due to non-payment of rentals.

The Catholic Church owns the City Centre-based building and, according to Ombudsman Martha Chizuma-Mwangonde, the closure is a result of a K44 million bill.

The development has automatically forced the officers to stop working, leaving some people with complaints in the cold.

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Confirming the development yesterday, Chizuma-Mwangonde, said security guards alerted her about the landlord’s intention to close the offices last week.

“Actually, this issue started last week when I was working late. One of the security guards came and said there were people trying to close the office. So, I asked our Executive Secretary to talk to them because we were told that payment was being processed. That day they did not close.

“Come Friday last week, we were also working late and we were told to vacate. I hear that the outstanding bill is about K44 million which government, through Ministry of Lands has not paid to the landlord,” Chizuma-Mwangonde said.

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Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development spokesperson, Charles Vintulla, said the ministry pays rentals in line with the funding from Treasury and sometimes inadequate funding leads to arrears like the one in question.

“It could be true that we have accumulated rentals and there are indeed cases where we accumulate rental arrears but the landlords are still paid at the end of the day. That we have bills is indeed true and it may not only be for that building,” Vintulla said.

He said he is confident that the Office of the Ombudsman’s predicament will be sorted out as the ministry sometimes raises emergency funds for such situations.

When The Daily Times visited the offices yesterday morning, it found some people who were seeking support from the Office of the Ombudsman failing to understand the offices’ closure.

The Office of the Ombudsman is an independent institution established by the 1994 Constitution of Malawi and is complemented by the Ombudsman Act.

The office has powers to investigate any and all cases where it is alleged that a person has suffered an injustice and there is no remedy available by way of court proceedings or there is no practicable remedy available to that person.

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