By Enock Balakasi and McCarthy Mwalwimba
Minister of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development Grace Chiumia on Friday dismissed a Facebook post purportedly informing people that her ministry in conjunction with Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) intends to give free motorcycles to youths.
A Facebook page in the name of the minister has a post to the effect that the ministry intends to launch an initiative to give youths bicycles which MRA impounded from people who failed to pay duty.
But speaking a press briefing at Capitol Hill in Lilongwe, Chiumia said the information is false.
“The Facebook page is not mine and I stopped using Facebook long time ago.
“There has never been a time where the Ministry has engaged MRA on this alleged initiative nor is the ministry aware of the presence of the motorcycles,” she said.
Chiumia added that whatever is planned for young people in the country is properly budgeted for in the 2018 to 2019 National Budget.
She, therefore, asked Malawians, especially the youth, to disregard the Facebook page and the post because they risk losing money to fraudsters.
“I have heard that the people behind the Facebook page want to further announce that those that want to benefit from the initiative should pay K75, 000 for them to receive the motorbikes.
“As a ministry, we are dismissing that information. We shall not be responsible for loss of money through that dubious scheme. So keep your money safe from the fraudsters,” Chiumia said.
She further asked the youth to report any phone number which the fraudsters will use to call individuals asking for the money.
Chiumia said the ministry uses proper channels to present valid information to the youth whenever it wants to develop and roll out any programme.
“As a ministry, we are following up on the issue to ensure that those responsible face the long arm of the law,” she said.
MRA’s Head of Corporate Affairs Steven Kapoloma, who franked the minister at the briefing, said the authority does not give impounded motorcycles, goods or any other item to ministries.
He said the MRA operates under the Customs and Exercise Act in that when it has seized goods, including motor vehicles and motorcycles, it announces through the media and put them for public auction.
“The sole reason why we sell [goods] that we have impounded is that we want to recover the revenue that we were supposed to collect on those goods that owners failed to pay duty.
“We are not allowed under the law to be giving out goods that are under our custody,” Kapoloma said.
He added that the Act gives the power to the Commissioner General to engage the owner of the goods to make sure that they pay the right amount of duty.
“When they have failed to pay duty or when they have committed an offence, the Commissioner General has powers to forfeit those goods and put them for sale through a public auction,” Kapoloma said.