21 July 2008

Mozambique: Government Printing House Facing Bankruptcy

Maputo — The Mozambican government's printing house, the Imprensa Nacional de Mocambique (INM), is facing bankruptcy, largely because state bodies who have had material printed there have not paid their bills.

According to a report in Monday's issue of the independent newsheet "Mediafax", the unpaid bills now total more than 12 million meticais (around 500,000 US dollars)..

The INM director, Lourenco Mavie, told the paper "in the attempt to collect the debts accumulated by the state, we have sent letters to the ministers, to the permanent secretaries in the ministries, and to the provincial governors, but they have not proven receptive. This is a matter that has to be analysed to hold the debtors responsible and to find mechanisms to liquidate the total debt".

But Mavie also admitted that "organised crime" is present inside the INM, and was responsible for major theft. In 2004, 1.2 billion old meticais (around 50,000 dollars) had disappeared, and one of the company's workers was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for the theft of driving licences and vehicle ownership documents produced by the press.

Mavie also lamented that the volume of orders for the INM has dropped dramatically, since many state bodies are no longer using its services, preferring to print their materials at private printing houses, or even in South Africa. This is illegal - a colonial decree of 1970, which has never been revoked, declares "no public service may order directly from private printing companies unless the INM declares that it is unable to do the work".

Although Mavie admits that INM workers are poorly trained and that the printing equipment is in poor condition, he insists that the company is still able to do its job, and that claims by other state bodies that they print elsewhere because the INM "lacks capacity" are untrue.

He suggested that the real reason was corruption, and accused the private printing companies of paying civil servants commissions (the polite word for bribes) to attract large orders.

The most important item produced by the INM is the official government gazette, the "Boletim da Republica", in which all laws, ministerial dispatches and other key state documents are published. Yet the gazette is often published months late, and the distribution system is so poor that many institutions remain quite unaware of important pieces of legislation.

Mavie insisted that the services of the INM are of critical importance for the Mozambican state, and so the state should support it properly, and ensure that it can improve the quality of its work.

Pf/ (430)

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