Malawi prisons food suppliers cry foul over payment

Suppliers of maize, beans and vegetables to prisons in Malawi are failing to reinvest their capital following government’s failure to pay them for services, some of them dating back to last year.

The individual outstanding payments range from K1 million to K10 million or more, according to a supplier of maize to Maula Prison in Lilongwe who made the supplies early this year, but has not been paid up to now.

The supplier said: “Every time we try to claim payment, they attribute the problem to the Auditor General they say has been conducting auditing in the prisons. But how do we survive when the capital is stuck? We could have reinvested that money elsewhere if we were timely paid.”

Malawi Prison Service (MPS) spokesperson Evance Phiri in an interview on Tuesday confirmed the prisons’ failure to pay their suppliers, explaining that this was as a result of annual budgetary cut to prisons.

He said their budgetary allocation in the financial year 2011/12 was trimmed and could not meet the payments.

Said Phiri: “Currently, there is auditing exercise by the Auditor General to ascertain our expenditure and the outstanding bill and government will settle that payment after this exercise.”

Phiri said he could not tell how much the prisons owe suppliers, saying that would be determined by the government auditors.

Finance Minister Dr Ken Lipenga, in his 2012/13 budget statement presented in June, said MPS has a domestic debt of K1.3 billion.

National Auditing Office (NAO) corporate communications officer Thomas Chafunya confirmed in an interview on Tuesday there is an ongoing auditing exercise in prisons.

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