Malawi High Court in Blantyre has placed a garnishee order on three banks that hold accounts for Nsanje District Council, a development which means government officials there cannot access any money.
A garnishee order is a court judgement that authorises a creditor to seize and access money held by any person or institution on behalf of a debtor, according to lawyer Justin Dzonzi.
In the Nsanje case, Raymond Ngulube, trading as Trust and Praise General Suppliers, through Ralph and Arnolds Associates, moved the court to garnishee Standard Bank, Malawi Savings Bank and National Bank of Malawi where the council holds bank accounts.
It is to force the banks release K1 114 897.42 (about $3 300) the supplier claims Nsanje District Hospital owes them, according to the court document served on January 7 2012.
It also followed yet another order dated November 20 2012 where the same supplier claimed he was owed K2 288 477 (about $6 730).
But records at Nsanje District Health Office (DHO) show that this debt was already paid in full as evidenced by receipts and cheques.
Nsanje district commissioner Rodney Simwaka said he is worried that if the order is not lifted soon, it will “definitely affect operations because we normally get funding around these days.”
Said Simwaka: “What it means is that we can’t draw any money because the banks are restrained from honouring our cheques. We will be extremely worried if we get the funding and the garnishee is not lifted.”
Simwaka said the court order would paralyse provision of essential services in the district if not lifted.
But, according to Nsanje district health officer Dr Medson Matchaya, the debt was cleared in December 2012.
“The garnishee has actually come as a surprise because as far as I am concerned, the debt was already paid. But I can’t say much talk to the DC,” he said.
Records show that the supplier got the first payment through cheque number 001340 worth K1 516 873.23 (about $4 461) dated November 26 2012.
When called yesterday, Ngulube said: “My lawyer will call you for details.”
According to Ministry of Justice spokesperson Apoche Itimu, Attorney General Anthony Kamanga, who is the official lawyer for entire government establishment, is yet to get a brief on the matter.