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Assets office on embassies’ trail

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The Office of the Director of Public Officers’ Declarations has disclosed that it will engage the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and other relevant agencies as it probes declarations of officials in Malawi’s embassies.

This follows reports of abuse of public funds at Malawi’s mission in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where some officers including the then deputy ambassador Doreen Kapanga allegedly connived to steal about K293 million at the embassy.

In an interview Tuesday on the sidelines of a meeting his office had with representatives from different Central Region public institutions, assets director Chris Tukula said verifying declarations of listed embassy officials may inform whether they are unlawfully accumulating wealth.

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He said where there is reasonable suspicion that any embassy official might have accumulated wealth unlawfully, the assets office will engage prosecuting agencies like the Anti- Corruption Bureau (ACB) and the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for proper action.

Tukula added that it is also the case with all other listed public officers on whom similar actions will be taken, saying already the ACB has been to his office to look into declarations of some public officers.

“For those listed public officers that are located within the country, we have been able to analyse compliance; we have been able to go to their respective institutions and check whether they have complied.

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“But with embassies, because they are not within the country, we may need to use a different checklist model. That’s why we are saying we are going to use the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to check whether all listed public officers in embassies have declared their assets,” said Tukula.

He added that his office used all controlling officers in the ministries and departments to distribute declaration forms for all public officers including those in embassies.

“We are in the process of cross-checking on who exactly in the embassies was supposed to declare and who has declared. If we look at media reports of theft of public funds, we believe embassies need a lot of attention,” said Tukula.

During the meeting, some public officers suggested that the assets law must extend to other junior officers who are in positions where chances that they may abuse public resources are high.

Some of these positions, according to those who attended the meeting, include those of pharmacists, land officers at District Councils and transport officers.

In his response, Tukula said the suggestions will be looked into when the assets act will be reviewed. He added that proposals that all public institutions should have declarations officers made a lot of sense and will therefore also be looked into.

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