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Treasury sits on compensations

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Attorney General Thabo Nyirenda

Two months after government cleared K158 billion in arrears with companies and firms, it has transpired that Treasury is yet to compensate some victims whose cases were long concluded in court.

Among them is the case of four children who died at Nantchengwa Primary School after a block collapsed and fell on the learners and killed them in the process.

Families of the four children have been relying on the State, notably Legal Aid Bureau, to push for their cause.

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A father to one of the victims, Antionio Francisco, told Malawi News that they were told the matter was concluded and payments were only made to parents whose children were just injured.

“What I was told last month when I went to the Treasury was that the case was under one name (Antonio Francisco and others) so the others were compensated and as such, we have to follow up with the Legal Aid Bureau so that they make a specific request for those of us whose children died. So until now we have not heard anything yet.

“During that incident, I lost my daughter who was about nine years old. Following up on this matter three years later does not make it any easier on my family. But we hope one day we shall be compensated,” he said.

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In an interview, Legal Aid Bureau Director, Masauko Chamkakala, said they have about five concluded cases which the Treasury is yet to pay out.

Chamkakala further said he had a meeting with the Attorney General and Solicitor General during the week and they showed him documents authorising Treasury to make payments.

“We had a meeting with the AG and Solicitor General. And at the meeting we raised the matter and they showed me documents that they had instructed the Treasury in July to make payments and this is November, the Treasury is yet to make payment on an issue that was concluded in 2019.

“We are continuously following up with the AG’s office because some of the delays are quite long and it is giving us pressure because some of the clients follow up with us wondering that their cases were concluded but there is no payment yet. So we are following up with the AG’s office and we are hopeful after our last meeting that the payments will be done,” he said.

Ministry of Finance spokesperson Williams Banda said it would be difficult to make a general comment but was quick to say the Treasury waits for reports from the AG to make the payments.

“It would be difficult to make a blanket comment but suffice to say that the AG once said they will be processed as they come, so in terms of payment, authority comes from the AG.

“I take that we will require more time because we do not have references for those cases. Some of them might have been big. Because what they do is the files are processed chronologically. It will be difficult for us to differentiate that this is from Legal Aid, this one from the court.

“There a backlog of them so the AG comes up with a strategy on how they should be paid. Government considers them highly…the only challenge is resources. But some arrears were paid,” he said.

Responding to this, Attorney General Thabo Nyirenda said some of the cases take time because they review them before approving and authorising Treasury for payment.

“Where we are disputing an amount, then they do not expect us to write Treasury if we think that the amount is too much, we appeal, we do not compensate simply because they are represented by Legal Aid,” he said.

Other uncompensated cases include those of Brian Mwangonde versus Attorney General worth K11.9 million and Frescoe Nkhata and two others versus Attorney General worth K13.6 million.

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