FIU officers living in fear

Hawa: We are looking into the issue
Hawa: We are looking into the issue

Recent revelations of theft of public funds and subsequent arrests of individuals in government and the private sector has put into the limelight the work of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) which has since asked government for enhanced security for its officials and offices.

Officials from FIU, led by acting director Atuweni-Tupochile Phiri, appeared before the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament (PAC) during the week to explain its role in investigating civil servants and private companies involved in cash-gate.

FIU has been key in uncovering movements of money amounting to K1 billion(US$2.7 million) from officers at the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) to a company called International Procurement Services which had no contract with government.

Phiri told the committee that although FIU has been operating for seven years, the cash-gate saga has brought into the limelight its work, especially in investigating suspicious bank transactions.

She said FIU was assured of top security when it was housed within the Reserve Bank of Malawi but worried that this is no longer the case.

FIU head of financial analysis Fumbani Mhango said: “We would want to see more security for our officers but also offices. A few weeks ago, all we did was block bank accounts of individuals we felt had conducted suspicious transactions and people came up to our offices demanding explanations after banks told them it was FIU which did that.”

Mhango reminded the committee of past incidents when offices of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) were partly burnt down and the National Audit Office was ransacked and information on hard disks and computers stolen while they were investigating the K400 million (US$1 million case involving the police and the Accountant General’s office.

Chief   secretary Hawa Ndilowe confirmed receiving a security request from the FIU acting director and said she was making security arrangements.

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    But Mr. Mhango, is it wrong for people to come to your offices to demand explanations when you freeze their accounts? The least you should do is to inform them as soon as you do the freezing and explain the basis of your action.

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