The Public Accounts Committee (Pac) of Parliament has said it will embark on a lifestyle audit of top former and current government officials to check if the wealth they have corresponds with their earnings.
Section 19(f) of the Public Audit Act mandates Pac to pursue any matter that, in its opinion, is worth following up on.
The proposal by Pac comes barely a few days after the High Court granted a non-conviction-based Preservation Order to the government to seize property worth K1.7 billion from former President Peter Mutharika’s personal bodyguard, Norman Chisale.
It also comes at a time the country is yet to recover from the K6.2 billion Covid funds scam, in which some civil servants are being suspected of mismanaging funds meant for Covid response.
Pac Chairperson Shadreck Namalomba said there were many people in Malawi that were living beyond their means.
He said, in committee members’ opinion, lifestyle audits could go a long way in reducing cases of corruption among public officials.
Namalomba said the audit would target such people as former and current Cabinet ministers, controlling officers such as principal secretaries, directors, directors of finance, procurement heads, chief executive officers of parastatals, city council heads and district commissioners.
“What will happen is that we will audit their wealth to see if it is commensurate with their sources of income. Where expenditures are more than their sources of income, then we will ask them to justify where the money is coming from.
“The purpose of a lifestyle audit is to ensure that unexplained wealth is questioned. People have to justify why they have accumulated wealth that is beyond their means of earnings. One conclusion would be that they have defrauded money from the public purse and appropriate action must, therefore, be taken on them,” he said.
He said it was shocking to see people working in government constructing mansions when their take-home packages were modest.
“Can’t you see what is happening around, where people are earning just below K2 million a month and do not do any business but you will find that they have built many mansions. Where do they get the money?” Namalomba asked.
Speaking in Lilongwe recently during the launch of a Coordination Strategy on Investigation and Prosecution of Finance and Related Crimes (2020), Attorney General Chikosa Silungwe urged Malawians to stop praising dishonest people by giving them sugar-coated names such as Anyamata a Patauni and Anyamata Otakata.
Last month, President Lazarus Chakwera said if Malawi were to root out the problem of waste, abuse and theft of public resources, it needed to admit that these are behaviors that have poisoned the values of the nation and have corroded the entire government system.
He said, over the past 27 years, the government system had been rigged with bad or old laws, procedures, policies and contracts that were cleverly designed to facilitate waste.