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Declared assets under wraps

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Listed public officers’ declarations deposited with the assets directorate have not yet been physically verified as is required, due to funding constraints, and governance and accountability commentators have argued that the development defeats the whole purpose of the Assets Act.

Physical verification of all declarations—which is a statutory provision in the Assets Act— includes having interviews with the declarants and checking with entities like the Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC), the Registrar General and financial institutions.

According to observers, failing to physically verify the assets means it is difficult for the directorate to determine whether someone has under-declared or over-declared.

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Assets Director Christopher Tukula disclosed in an exclusive interview with The Daily Times that so far no public officer has had their declared assets physically verified.

“We are supposed to verify everything. If someone has declared that they have vehicles, houses, businesses and anything else, we are supposed to see the items physically. The last part is interviewing the public officer where we get to the bottom of the matter like when they have not truthfully declared,” said Tukula.

He added that his office has up to May this year to report on the first part of physical verification at which point Malawians will be informed about who has declared truthfully and who hasn’t.

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In an interview yesterday, Chancellor College Political Scientist, Mustapha Hussein, said it is unfortunate that different governance institutions continue being crippled despite government extolling the virtues of fighting corruption.

He observed that several policies and laws are not being implemented because of lack of capacity constraints.

“Regarding the declarations, there is need for verification to be carried out to ensure the intentions of the [Assets] Act are met. It entails checking corruption and promoting transparency and accountability and without physical verification, it simply means the act is not being implemented,” said Hussein.

In an earlier interview, Justice Link Executive Director, Justin Dzonzi, said authorities need to appreciate that creating the Assets Act was one thing and implementing it another.

“It is possible that some public officers may under-declare because they cannot explain how they got the wealth while others may over-declare in expectation of some windfall. Physical verification failing to happen because of funding constraints undermines the efficacy of the assets office,” Dzonzi said.

Meanwhile, Parliament has approved an additional K20 million on the initial K472.98 billion which was allocated to the assets directorate in June last year.

According to Tukula, his office will continue with the physical verification exercise as long as there is consistent cash flow from Treasury.

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