Several government ministries and a constitutional body face eviction from buildings owned by private landlords in Lilongwe and Mzuzu following failure by government to pay rentals, Nation on Sunday has learnt.
The affected ministries and agencies include those of Gender, Irrigation, Labour and Information, the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) and State Residences.
The Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development has confirmed that Malawi Property Investment Company (Mpico), one of government’s private landlords, has terminated its contract with government for four housing complexes in Lilongwe. The ministry said discussions are underway over another building, Gemini, where government is also owing the company huge sums of money in rental arrears.
MHRC also faces eviction from the office complex housing its headquarters in the capital city for government’s non-payment of over K100 million.
Chief Secretary to the Government George Mkondiwa acknowledged the matter in an interview last Thursday and said government was working on finding solutions, but referred Nation on Sunday to the Ministry of Lands for details.
“The Ministry of Lands is the one responsible for housing of all government departments and agencies, so they are the ones with all the information on what the situation is and what we have done so far,” said Mkondiwa.
The ministry’s spokesperson Charles Vintula confirmed in an interview on Thursday that Mpico has terminated the contract for four buildings — Aquarius, which house offices for State Residences; Chief Kilipula Building, Capital House and ICS complex.
“We cannot call them ‘eviction notices’ as you are putting it because they are not. In February 2006, government and Mpico signed a tenancy contract of 10 years, which is expiring at the end of this financial year—June 2016. The contract stipulated that either party—government or Mpico— could terminate or not renew it without giving reasons. It happens Mpico is not renewing that contract with government involving Mpico buildings in Mzuzu and some few in Lilongwe. The Lilongwe list does not include Gemini House,” Vintula said in a statement.
As reported by our sister newspaper Weekend Nation, government had been in trouble with Mpico since last year for failing to pay the company K2 billion rentals for Gemini House which houses various ministries, including Gender and Water Development.
Mpico officials had not yet responded to a questionnaire we sent them as we went to press, but Vintula said the actual bill owed to Mpico was still being calculated.
“We cannot confirm that figure as the figures are being reconciled at the moment. Apparently, it is not K2 billion plus. We have not received any eviction notice from anyone, HB Properties inclusive,” said Vintula.
The HB complex, which also houses MHRC, is owned by Lilongwe Trading Limited and the commission is a beneficiary of a leasing agreement between Kalaria and Ministry of Lands and Housing.
A letter Nation on Sunday has seen, dated April 1 2016, addressed to MHRC executive secretary Grace Malera titled ‘Outstanding Rentals’, the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development owes the landlord K108 835 883.82 for MHRC officies.
“This communication is for your information that if the outstanding payment is not settled as soon as possible, you may be requested to vacate the offices,” writes Mukesh Makadia, Lilongwe Trading Limited manager.
Malera confirmed the development in an interview, saying the body was optimistic government will come to its rescue and sort the matter with the landlord.
“We appreciate that the situation is not unique as we are aware that other government agencies are also facing such challenges and are in similar situation,” she said.
According to Malera, MHRC has discussed the matter with the Chief Secretary to Government and Principal Secretary for Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Ivy Luhanga.
The development comes amid a severe financial squeeze that government has endured in the last few years and this is now threatening to affect several government organs. n