K9bn MDF utility bill worry committee

The Parliamentary Committee on Defence and International Relations has proposed that legislators should move a motion to write-off part of the K9 billion bill that the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) owes utility companies in the country.

The committee’s chairperson Kenneth Zikhale Ng’oma said in an interview yesterday government needs to find a special arrangement, or through Parliament, to ease the burden that the security arm is facing to settle its humongous water and electricity bills.

A water board official disconnects water in this file photograph

Zikhale Ng’oma said this after MDF high-ranking officials on Thursday made a presentation before the committee during the 2019/2020 National Budget cluster meeting, where among other things, the officials expressed concern at how the burden of settling the bills is putting a strain on the army’s financial resources.

“How can our soldiers work when water or electricity has been disconnected at home? We must ensure that at all times our soldiers have all the necessary amenities to enable them execute their duties diligently,” Zikhale Ng’oma said.

MDF and Malawi Police Service (MPS) top the list of government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) that owed the country’s water boards. Collectively, MDAs owe the five water boards over K21 billion.

Besides the security agencies, State Residences, Malawi Prison Service and ministries of Health and Education, Science and Technology, also owe the water boards huge sums, dating to four years.

Zikhale Ng’oma, a Malawi Congress Party (MCP) legislator for Nkhata Bay South, indicated that he will personally push for a Bill in Parliament that will help improve welfare of soldiers.

Last November, the Department of Statutory Corporations asked the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) to act on a 21-day ultimatum set by Water Employees Trade Union of Malawi (Wetum) for MDAs to pay the bills, then pegged at K18 billion.

The move begged a a 2016 Ministry of Finance plan to centralise payment of utility bills and installation of prepaid meters to avoid such occurrences.question of what became of

In an earlier interview Lilongwe Water Board (LWB) chief executive officer Engineer Alfonso Chikuni said his board signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the concerned MDAs on a repayment plan that also includes installation of prepaid meters.

“Our situation is slightly different. It is true government owes us money, but we have been in a lot of dialogue on the way forward. We have resorted to installing prepaid meters at the MDF and their secondary schools,” he said.

Last month, Secretary to Treasury Cliff Chiunda indicated, in an interview with Weekend Nation, that Treasury had started looking at how best they can settle it in the 2019/20 fiscal year.

“But there is need that we should deal with this problem once and for all,” he said.

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