Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) has decried government’s inconsistency, accusing it of not living up to its word to settle arrears it owes the private sector.
Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe, in the Letter of Intent submitted to the International Monetary fund (IMF), said of the K157 billion arrears, K72 billion is what government has thus far verified as legitimate.
He said K30 billion arrears owed to the private sector were rejected due to the absence of supporting documentation while K55 billion were settled upon delivery of supporting documentation.
MCCCI president Karl Chokotho on Monday bemoaned the development, saying it is destroying private sector growth.
He described the scenario as “unfortunate”, questioning government’s decision after several audits and documents were timely provided.
He said: “How possible is it that government has gone through two audits and they have established that there is no money that they are not going to pay back if there was no documentation?
“How have they determined that there is an amount that they are not paying back because I would assume that it is after going through the documentation, which we made available to them, that it would not be possible to carry the audit?”
But Treasury spokesperson Nations Msowoya, in a separate interview on Monday, said government arrived at the decision after a thorough scrutiny of the documentation provided to the Auditor General.
He said most of the arrears lacked proper documentation and government only concentrated and settled those verified.
“At the time when the audit was taking place, some information was not readily available. So out of the K55 billion that we felt needed support documentation, what we did was to ask those that had genuine documents as evidence.
“Upon delivery and verification, we had their arrears settled but those that have failed to do that which are the majority, we have assumed that they did not deliver; hence, their arrears have not been settled,” he said.
Government issued the promissory notes given to some private sector companies as a way of settling the arrears, but Msowoya said the take up has been slow. He, however, expressed optimism that going forward it will pick up.