More pressure on assets defaulters
Calls for action on listed public officers who have failed to comply with the Declaration of Assets, Liabilities and Business Interests Act are getting intense with the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) also calling for relevant punishments to be meted out on the defaulters.
The Malawi Law Society (MLS) told the The Sunday Times of March 27 that it expects those in charge of enforcing the law to rise to the occasion and deal with defaulters so as to set an example that laws must be respected.
According to the Assets Act, there is an elaborate procedure for dealing with defaulters such that failing to admit a declaration is punishable by two years imprisonment and a K500,000 fine.
In an interview yesterday, CCJP acting National Coordinator, Martin Chiphwanya, said the essence of the Assets Act — that the public purse is protected– is being defeated by public officers who willfully ignore the requirement that they should declare their assets.
“An individual that decides not to disclose their assets has to be punished according to the law. It is unfortunate and regrettable that others are not respecting this law.
“The reason the law was put in place was to make sure public officers who handle public funds and other appointed officials are accountable and transparent to the people. If they don’t disclose [their assets], that’s defeating the whole purpose of the law,” he said.
According to the assets directorate, only 80 percent of cabinet ministers, 97.4 percent of members of the National Assembly and 84.8 percent of elected officials in local councils had declared their assets which were without defects.
Chiphwanya opined that some politicians and government officials might be ignoring the assets law due to misunderstanding that it is a witch-hunting tool.
“They think it is there to stop them from acquiring wealth. That’s not the spirit of the law. People are free to acquire wealth but then the source of the wealth has to be very credible and transparent so that the public has confidence in the type of public officers that we have,” he said.
He added: “The law is simply protecting the public purse and has nothing to do with stopping people from acquiring wealth. If somebody works hard, they can acquire wealth, but they must make sure the public purse is protected.”
According to the assets directorate, a thorough assessment of declarations can conclusively determine if any listed public officer has not declared their assets as required by the law.
After the process, those that will be identified as willful defaulters will be recommended for the various criminal and administrative sanctions which may include losing a seat, for elected officials dismissal for public employed officers.
So far, the names of the defaulters have not been disclosed until a comprehensive compliance report, with recommendations of relevant actions on the defaulters, is submitted to Parliament.
Recently, Assets Director Christopher Tukula said under the law, there is an elaborate procedure for dealing with defaulters such that failing to submit a declaration is punishable by two years imprisonment and a K500,000 fine.
“However it is not a strict liability offence. There is need to prove that failure to declare was due to willful and inexcusable disobedience of the law. If a public officer can show a reasonable cause for failing to declare, they maybe excused,” Tukula told The Sunday Times
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