As Tonse Alliance government, under the leadership of Dr. Lazarus Chakwera, is striving for prudent use of public resources, news coming from the office of the Attorney General (AG) indicates that the government has so far saved over k200 billion from illegal claims.
A few months ago, AG Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda, who replaced inactive Chikosa Silungwe, filed a declaration of intent to battle any shady claims against the government, which total roughly K2 trillion.
In an interview with the local paper, Attorney General (AG) Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda stated that despite the process being too demanding, his office was still contesting a number of additional compensation claims and would not give up until “every penny illegally claimed is challenged.”
“So far, we have saved in excess of K200 billion. The highest is a land claim of K131 billion; then there is one of about K30 billion and also a K6 billion claim which we successfully challenged. The rest are smaller amounts but, of course, several of them,” he said as quoted by The Nation Newspaper.
The K131 billion land case is one of the top five cases the AG is fighting as part of the ongoing battle to reverse the over K2 trillion in claims against government.
The amount was supposed to be paid to Ramchand Hashmatrail, who sued the government claiming the one-party Malawi Congress Party (MCP) regime wrongly forfeited his land in Blantyre City in 1969.
The High Court, through a default judgement, awarded him the amount in March 2020.
However, in February this year the High Court in Blantyre set aside the payment after the AG filed an application for stay of execution of the judgement.
A $300 million payment to Savenda Management Services was also stopped by Chakaka-Nyirenda after the government canceled a contract to purchase 300 ambulances.
The AG noted that while some claims were legitimate, the majority of business people were using this as an opportunity to swindle the government by submitting shady and inflated compensation claims.
“They know their claims are not genuine but proceed to make exaggerated claims. But we are in court each and every day trying to fight such bogus claims.
“Sometimes one would be entitled to K100 million but instead will claim K10 billion. Most of these claims government has been paying are very avoidable. If you sleep, they take advantage of the situation,” he said.
The AG expressed concern that some claims involved donor-funded projects, resulting in government paying for breach of contracts.
“This shows lack of seriousness, pure negligence, sabotage or incompetence on the part of government,” he said.
Commenting on the development, Governance, rule of law and institutional, hailed the AG for standing up to challenge questionable claims against government.
However, Alfazema, in an interview with the local paper, observed that technical incompetence and kickbacks may have contributed to huge amounts of money being claimed by companies and individuals.
“When technical officers examine a case and decide they cannot win and fail to challenge it, it basically means expertise in the legal defence system is lacking.
“Of course, sometimes expertise could be there but officers get compromised. They are enticed to quickly settle the claims and in return get kickbacks from the claimants. But saving K200 billion that’s the way we should go and ensure there is protection of public funds at all cost,” he said.
Chakaka-Nyirenda announced at the beginning of the year that his office had started procedures to seize property owned by private companies and contractors who had, over the years, engaged in shady business dealings with government ministries, departments, and agencies.
He stated that he aimed to recoup roughly K50 billion from the suspension of business deals each quarter.