Government of Malawi gunning to retrieve an accumulated amount of K5 Billion from National Bus Services Limited, a subsidiary of Mulli Brothers Holdings, which the company has been collecting from bus terminals as fees under the pretext of being property owners since 2007.
Nyasa Times high-placed impeccable sources have indicated that government has sought legal opinion from experts to pursue the matter, and that it has been given a go ahead to repossess the properties and reclaim all funds generated from the bus depots across the country over the years.
Said the source: “Government has been given a legal green light to go ahead and reposes all bus terminals from the National Bus Company who allegedly assumed ownership of the properties illegally.
“The properties in question include Makata Depot and Wenela Bus Depot in Blantyre, and other depots in Mzimba, Lilongwe, Kasungu and Mzuzu.”
National Bus Services Limited started operating the bus depots and managing other properties in 2007 when Shire Bus Lines Limited went into voluntary liquidation.
“By law, the liquidator – Hastings Bofomo Nyirenda in this case – retains all powers to control all assets of the liquidated company up until all creditors of the company are paid, and all liquidation expenses are paid and the surplus assets are distributed to the shareholders,” said the source who opted for anonymity.
Nyasa Times understands that in trying to transition into a new set ownership, government – through the Public Private Partnership Commission (PPPC) – incorporated a company named Assets Holding Company, which was supposed to own workshops and depots previously owned by Shire Bus Lines.
However, according to the source, the new company failed to start operations because some previous shareholders of Shire Bus Lines Limited including Mulli Holdings Limited failed to sign a memorandum of understanding drawn by government through PPPC.
Surprisingly, despite all the legal hang-ups surrounding the deal, Mulli Holdings started operating the bus depots and properties.
“They have illegally benefitted from fees collected from all users of the said premises. For instance, all bus operators currently pay rent to National Bus Services Limited and that is legally wrong and that is why government want to intervene and right this wrong because the money being collected belong to the public and not a private company,” said the source.
Furthermore, it has, however, been established that there is no single document that validates the ownership of bus depots by National Bus Services Limited.
The source said: “There was not a legally – binding transfer of properties by the liquidator of Shire Bus Lines to any entity.
“To make matters even worse, National Bus Services Limited has not been paying rent to the Liquidator.”
Currently, there has been a national public outcry on the sorry state of bus depots mainly Wenela, Lilongwe and Mzuzu.
The country’s populace have been calling on government, through city councils, to construct modern structures replacing the current dilapidated depots.
Sometime last year Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, which oversees affairs of councils, directed Lilongwe City Council, Kasungu Municipal Council, Blantyre City Council and M’mbelwa District Council to take over management of Wenela, Lilongwe, Kasungu and Mzimba Bus Terminals with immediate effect.
The Councils were requested to ensure that the structures were improved befitting the city, municipality and district standards – they were encouraged to work hand in hand with PPPC to ensure that willing investors are given a chance.
So far, Lilongwe City Council has already drawn a comprehensive plan to construct a modern bus depot on the premises of the old one at the heart of the city in Old town.
The PPPC has on several occasions also spoken out against National Bus Services acting as both bus operator and manager of terminals.
The argument goes on to label the situation as a disregard of terms of trade under the Competition and Fair Trading Act.
“Now, that the operation of depots has been deemed illegal, chances are high that once government hands over ownership of these to city and town councils, the company will be forced by law to return the accumulated K5 billion it has been collecting as fees over the years, said the source.
Efforts to speak to Mulli Brothers, owners of the National Bus Company could proved futile as their phones could not be reached.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :