Malawi Defence Force says it has no problems with disgruntled food suppliers wishing to stage demonstrations against MDF’s failure to pay their dues as long as the suppliers conduct their demonstrations away from all precincts designated as security areas by the laws of Malawi.

MDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Frank Kakhuta Banda said in an interview yesterday in reaction to indications by a group of foodstuff suppliers that they would be holding vigils today protesting against overdue payments the MDF owes them for supplied food.

However, the suppliers insist they will hold the vigil at Moyale Barracks gates today because this is where they delivered the supplies and where payment for the same is made.

Meanwhile, Treasury says paying out arrears to government departments will only be done after completion of an audit exercise and is heavily dependent on availability of the funds.

In Mzuzu alone, the suppliers’ spokesperson Sofie Munthali claims they are owed around K40m and that the non-payment of the funds has caused “a lot of suffering” among them.

“It’s a clear story. We are aware of the money we owe the suppliers. It’s not only Mzuzu. We also owe suppliers elsewhere. We forwarded the debts to Treasury and in fact Treasury sent a verification team. We are also waiting.

“These funds are in millions because this is involving a lot of suppliers. People have the right to demonstrate but we are asking them not to do it at our institutions. They may do so elsewhere. We are sure that Treasury will sort that out,” Kankhuta Banda said.

The disgruntled suppliers supplied such food stuffs as beef, beans, eggs, onions, cabbages, chickens, sausages, rice and more between the years 2010 and 2012.

According to Munthali, most of the suppliers entered into contracts that stipulate that payment for supplies would have to be made four weeks after delivery of the supplies.

“In the case of Mzuzu, we are over 20 suppliers. While the payments were erratic in the past, recently, we see that we are just not being paid. Among us are widows whose livelihood is solely dependent on this. The recent devaluation of the Kwacha has also affected us in that when we are eventually paid, the money will be nothing,” she said.

Spokesperson for the Treasury Nations Msowoya said in a separate interview yesterday that his office was conducting an audit exercise on arrears in all government departments and after verification payments would be made.

“All arrears must be audited first because we are not sure if all the arrears are genuine. After auditing, the arrears will be paid as and when the funds are available,” he said.

Periodically, the MDF puts out public invitations for eligible suppliers of various items, including foodstuffs, for its numerous stations in all the regions of the country.

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ZIMENE MUMAKONDA

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