Brighton Ng’onga, 67, died last month before receiving his K1.8 million compensation for losing a limb in a road accident—after waiting for the money for 12 years—our investigations have shown.
Ng’onga, who was involved in a road accident in 2006 while working as a clinical officer at the district health office (DHO) in Nsanje, was in 2008 awarded K1.8 million as compensation through the office of the Attorney General (AG), according to the Legal Aid Bureau (LAB).
But for 12 years, Ng’onga made countless trips to Lilongwe to get the money with no success, until he died last month.
LAB, which has been pursuing Ng’onga’s compensation, claims there is a syndicate in the AG’s office which it suspects has been defrauding people of their compensation and that Ng’onga’s K1.8 million is just a tip of the iceberg.
In an interview this week, LAB deputy director Trouble Kalua said he wrote the incumbent AG Chikosa Silungwe last month to inquire progress on Ng’onga’s compensation and to express LAB’s frustration on the same.
Said Kalua: “Just by looking at the way this particular claim was handled, one may be justified to conclude that there is or was a syndicate within the Ministry of Justice that was defrauding people of their compensation money.”
Kalua added that it is possible that there are several claimants who were told to wait and eventually gave up.
“They may actually have been compensated only that the money ended up being stolen.
“We need to get to the bottom of this so that the culprits are brought to book. The office of AG needs to do more to investigate this issue; otherwise, the feeling that our client had was that the culprits were being shielded by the office,” he said.
The AG confirmed in a telephone interview on Wednesday having received a letter from Kalua querying the negligence by his office to get the victim get the money as well as why the culprits have not been brought to book after it was established that some officers in the AG’s office encashed the cheque.
In a brief response Silungwe said: “I am aware of the matter and it is being investigated.”
In a letter dated November 23 2020 Ref No LL/LAB/ADMIN/11/2020/22/D, which we have seen, Kalua pointed out that in 2011 the office of AG confirmed that the cheque was encashed on January 14 2009 and that the office was tracing the cheque through the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) to identify the officer who cashed it.
Reads the letter, in part: “The office of Attorney General has willfully neglected and refused to assist our client to get his compensation. In the circumstances, we demand that our client be paid the sum of K1 800 000.00 plus interest thereof from February 8 2008 to the date of payment.”
Seeing that he was not being assisted by the AG’s office Ng’onga also sought help from the Ombudsman. In a letter addressed to the AG dated January 3 2012, Ref no: AG /877/9432 the Ombudsman stated that it had made investigations and found out that the cheque was deposited in a Standard Bank account in Lilongwe, belonging to Dennings Chambers—a law firm representing Ng’onga.
In its response to the Office of the Ombudsman, Dennings Chambers stated that apart from not having an account at Standard Bank, it did not sign a discharge certificate and a payment voucher from the AG’s office as per procedures when collecting a cheque from the AG’s office.
The firm also argued that to the AG’s office has not disclosed who handled the cheque from the government side.
The letter adds that failure by the AG’s office to produce the payment voucher and discharge certificate signed by Denning Chambers lawyers as well as identifying the officers who handled the cheque from both sides show that the AG’s team is dishonest and deliberately running away from investigating the matter.
In an interview this week, Ng’onga’s widow Ephrida narrated how her late husband and family in general suffered following the accident and the fruitless trips he made to Lilongwe as he pushed for compensation.
She said: “He had to travel from Nsanje to Lilongwe and back.
“At one time he was told the file was missing, and was sent back. You can imagine the pain someone with an artificial limb was going through in search of his compensation. But he has died without getting a single tambala.”
She also said the family also spent a lot of money routinely replacing the artificial limb.