President Peter Mutharika, Vice-President Everton Chimulirenji, Cabinet ministers, members of Parliament (MPs) and other eligible public officers have until July 30 this year to declare their assets in line with the law.
Besides the President and other mentioned public officers, others expected to declare their assets and liabilities include principal secretaries (PSs), district commissioners (DCs), directors in various government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), including heads of security agencies.
The section also requires full disclosure of any other assets the official or any member of his or her immediate family has financed, owns in any other name other than his or her own and description of the asset, its location, date of acquisition, amount paid for the asset, its current valuation, and name or names in which the asset is held or owned.
Section 15 (e) of the Assets Declaration law obliges public office holders, their immediate family members and associates to declare their full financial status by disclosing details such as bank accounts, the location of the accounts and names of the banking institutions, properties or business interests at the beginning of every financial year.
The law seeks to promote integrity, transparency, accountability and rule of law.
In an interview on Thursday, director of Public Officers Declaration Christopher Tukula described the law as important in achieving national integrity, especially in the management of public funds.
He said: “We stand to benefit with this law given the history of our country in as far as protection of public funds is concerned.”
But Tukula bemoaned loopholes in the Assets Declaration law in terms of punishing defaulters. He observed that the law currently recommends dismissal if an officer fails to declare his/her assets or a two years imprisonment for making false declaration.
He said this year’s assets declaration exercise started on July 1 and that his office is encouraging all public officers to respect the law as failure to do so is tantamount to dismissal.
To ease logistical pressure on the listed public officers, Tukula said temporary satellite offices have been established for this purpose at local government council offices. He said the satellite points besides the directorate’s office in Lilongwe will be open for the entire annual declaration period.
He said officers from the directorate will be available at satellite offices to receive the declaration forms from listed public officers.
In the 2018/19 financial year, 1100 public officers did not declare their assets, but none of them had been punished. There were 12 400 public officers who declared their assets last fiscal year.
Tukula said his office reports to the Monitoring Committee of Parliament and banks on its action to against non-compliant public officers.
The directorate presented a budget of K21 million for the statutory review to be used for meetings, consultation and reports, however, due to some financial constraints they have been given a lower budget ceiling of K13 million which Tukula said is a good starting point.
Last year, the office wrote former Speaker of Parliament Richard Msowoya to declare vacant seats of six MPs, including a Cabinet minister, who did not declare their assets for the year 2016/17.