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Assets law scares public servants

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Some listed public officers have called for a review of the Assets Declaration Act, saying some officers who are required to declare their assets, like individuals appointed into boards of parastatals, should be exempted from the requirement.

The proposal was made in Lilongwe on Tuesday during a meeting the assets directorate had with representatives from 68 Central Region public institutions.

The institutions included constitutional bodies, public councils, colleges and universities, public committees and commissions, public trusts and parastatal boards, among others.

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The directorate briefed the public officers on the annual declaration update returns which listed public officers are expected to submit to the directorate in July this year as per the requirement that the declarations must be updated annually.

“Some members appointed into boards refuse to take up their positions because they don’t see why they should declare their assets when they have their own businesses which have nothing to do with the appointments.

“So we may deny the boards of expertise and go for the available people simply because others are not willing to declare their assets,” said one contributor during the discussion.

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He went ahead to propose that the assets act should incorporate a clause that should exempt some officers from declaring their assets

In an interview after the meeting, assets director Christopher Tukula said the proposal and many others will be looked into by his office and other stakeholders, adding that some board appointees had turned down the offers after being informed that they are required to declare their assets.

He said with new developments that will continue coming up including the public service reforms programme, it may make sense to review the act so that it incorporates all emerging cases.

But in an interview yesterday, executive director of Justice Link, Justin Dzonzi, said the assets act fights unlawful accumulation of wealth either directly or indirectly.

“Board members may not be directly involved in the core processes of their institutions but by virtue of their positions, they may influence some decisions like in the awarding of contracts so that in turn they get kickbacks.

“In that case, you will find that the board members have accumulated wealth illegally during their period. As such, the suggestion that they should be exempted from declaring their assets is contrary to the spirit of the act,” said Dzonzi.

The assets act compels all public officers in positions where they can influence the unlawful accumulation of wealth to declare their assets, liabilities and business interests annually so as to fight unlawful accumulation of wealth.

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