The Accountant General says the burning down of the Treasury Cashier’s office in Mzuzu during the July 4 nationwide demonstrations has disrupted the processing of payments to government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) in the Northern Region.
In an interview yesterday, Accountant General Sungani Mandala said the damage, which affected the Integrated Financial Management and Information System (Ifmis) Northern Region hub, means that all payments will be centrally processed at Capital Hill in Lilongwe.
Giving a breakdown of the affected services, he said processing of fuel payments for district health office (DHO) ambulances, other recurrent transactions (ORT), Malawi Police Service and other MDAs requiring money to pay staff undertaking field work is now disrupted.
Said Mandala: “That office [Mzuzu Treasury Cashier] was meant to provide for central payments in the whole Northern Region.
“As the situation is, they cannot process any payment. This means that no single payment can be processed in Mzuzu. They can’t process payments for fuel for ambulances even salaries, unless they come to Lilongwe.”
The Accountant General said the damage may also affect processing of monthly salaries because the Treasury Cashier’s office at Capital Hill will now be processing transactions for two regions-North and Centre.
Before the Mzuzu Treasury Cashier’s Office was burnt down, there were four offices nationwide that processed payments, including Zomba in the Eastern Region, Blantyre in the South and the central office in Lilongwe.
Mandala has since indicated that government is working hard to normalise the situation and asked for patience.
He said: “What happened is a disaster. Our officers lost property in the process and right now they have nowhere to work from. We are exploring ways to rent a building so that they can resume work.”
While condemning the violent demonstrations and burning down of government offices, Ernest Thindwa, a political analyst based at the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College, said government operations should not suffer.
He said: “It is rather surprising that government cannot make payments for public services in the North on grounds that Treasury office was burnt.
“While we condemn the burning of the office or any other government facilities or private property, the same cannot be ground for non-payment for public services in the North.”
Thindwa said delays to devise an alternative would be viewed as punishment to people in the Northern Region.
But governance analyst Henry Chingaipe observed that with government services decentralised, the Accountant General’s sentiments were valid.
However, he said there is need for backup systems.
Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), a grouping of some civil society organisations, has been holding nationwide demonstrations and vigils to force the resignation of Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah and her commissioners for allegedly presiding over a flawed electoral process in the May 21 Tripartite Elections.