Gov’t officials refuse to settle K2.8m Escom bills

Government operations will remain paralysed in commercial city of Blantyre, probably, until next week as Heads of various ministries’ departments have agreed not to settle unpaid bills that led to power cut by Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) at new government building.

Escom disconnected power supply to the building on Wednesday morning, forcing the civil servants to abandon their respective offices.

And Heads of various government departments housed in the building met on Thursday but could not agree on how to pay the bill amounting to K2.8 million.

Chingota: Unpaid bills

Chingota: Unpaid bills

The building situated at the heart of Blantyre town adjacent to Blantyre Sports Club, houses Metrological department, District Commissioner, Ministry of Information, Physical police, Attorney General, Ministry of Tourism department, Immigration and others.

Some of the officers who attended meeting collaboratively disclosed to Nyasa Times the meeting agreed not to settle the electricity bills as each department in the building is currently facing funding constraints.

“There is nothing we could do because this problem is beyond our control. Almost every Head of department present complained the money they are getting is not enough to meet the cost of operations. Our hands are tied right now unless government comes to our rescue,” complained one of the officers.

It was noted during the meeting that government allocated about K300,000 to almost every department, which is considered as not enough to cater for both water and electricity bills aside other costs like fuel and internet.

The officers revealed that of all concerned departments, the Auditors General office accumulated the largest share of the bill amounting to K800,000.

“It’s frustrating because we don’t know what to do. As it stands, business will remain paralysed until next week when, if possible, the bills are settled. But that will only be possible government steps in and help”.

The development means now civil servants working in the building will be on freely-accorded holidays until the power supply to the building is restored.

Cutting off power supply is affecting operations for government departments such as the Metrological-which is responsible for weather focusing-and the onus is on government to find immediate solution if business is to return to normal.

Escom Public Relations Manager, Kitty Chinseu-Chingota confirmed to Nyasa Times on Wednesday the power cut was due to failure by the government institutions to settle outstanding electricity bills.

Meanwhile, the utility provider has told the concerned government department to pay half of the bill or else the power supply will not be restored.

Government operations have been scaled down in most ministries since last year following directive to cut-down funding as one of controlling measures government adopted after some donor countries pulled out aid due to Capitol Hill looting of public funds christened as cashgate scandal.

In December last year the new government building, constructed by the Chinese Government, had no power for two days after Escom cut off supply due to same issue of unsettled bills.

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