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Peter Mutharika’s law breakers

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Over a month after the closure of receipt of annual declarations by listed public officers, Malawi News has learnt that some ministers in President Peter Mutharika’s Cabinet have not submitted their updated declarations to the Directorate of Public Officers’ Declarations.

The ministers are Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe, Minister of Agriculture George Chaponda, Minister of Sports and Culture Grace Chiumia Minister of Industry.

While appearing on the list of the ministers that are yet to declare their assets, Minister of Gender Jean Kalilani was granted a waiver upon request.

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According to the assets office, Kalilani gave a “reasonable excuse” that she submits her annual declarations outside the 30- days requirement.

In a written response to our request for access to annual declarations of all cabinet ministers, assets director, Christopher Tukula, listed 12 ministers who have submitted their declarations.

They include Patricia Kaliati, Bright Msaka, Peter Kumpalume, Samuel Tembenu, Kondwani Nankhumwa, Atupele Muluzi, Francis Kasaila, Vincent Ghambi, Emmanuel Fabiano, Malison Ndau and Aggrey Masi.

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In his communication Ref. No. ODPOD/D/P/1 dated 2 September, 2016, Tukula says Kalilani gave a reasonable excuse before the deadline that her annual update would be submitted belatedly due to her official engagements.

It says the office is currently not in receipt and custody of the July, 2016 annual updates for Gondwe, Chiumi and Chaponda.

Another minister who claims to have declared the assets is Joseph Mwanamvekha although his name is not in the Office of Declaration of Assets database, according to our findings.

Information which we have sourced from the Assets Office further indicates that President Peter Mutharika and his vice, Saulos Chilima, submitted their annual declarations before 31 July as per the requirement.

On his part, Gondwe said he submitted his annual declarations to the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) and that he would say so if the assets office inquired from him.

But Chief Secretary to the Government, George Mkondiwa, said in an interview that he was not aware of any Cabinet minister’s annual declaration that was still at OPC.

“I saw one [annual declaration package] but it was sent to the Assets Office. I am not aware of any other declaration that is at OPC,” said Mkondiwa.

According to the Assets Act, every listed public officer is required to make sure their declarations are submitted to the assets directorate and no other party is responsible for anything contrary to this.

Another Cabinet minister whose name appears on the list of non-compliant public officers, Chaponda, pointed to his initial declaration after the Assets Act had come into effect as evidence that he had submitted his declaration.

When put to him that he has not made the latest annual declaration which was supposed to be made by July 31, Chaponda said: “I submitted the old forms and they are there [at the assets office], but I have the new ones which I am updating, so as far as I am concerned, I declared my assets.”

We did not manage to talk to Chiumia as she could not pick her mobile phone on our numerous attempts.

Asked what his office will do regarding the five non-compliant cabinet ministers, Tukula said an assessment will be made and if there is no reasonable excuse for not submitting their annual declarations, his office will recommend sanctions to the appointing authority, who is the President.

“Currently, we don’t know why their annual declarations are not here. We don’t know whether they have valid reasons for not submitting them, but there are clear sanctions, according to the assets act, which include being removed from one’s position,” said Tukula.

The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) has condemned the Cabinet ministers for undermining the assets law.

CCJP National Secretary, Martin Chiphwanya, said it is particularly sad that Cabinet ministers could not adhere to the deadline when they are supposed to be exemplary.

“The fact that the President and his Vice have declared clearly demonstrates the importance of assets declaration. Those that have not declared without any reasonable cause should face sanctions in accordance with the law.

“The few that have not declared are denting the image of the regime and the President should seriously consider disciplining them. Annual updates are supposed to instil confidence in the public that the purse is protected and that officials are accountable. Failure to declare defeats the whole purpose of the law,” said Chiphwanya.

Meanwhile, Tukula has said the verification of declarations has not yet started because his office had to seek a waiver from government to recruit staff who should undertake the exercise following the freezing of new recruitments in most government entities.

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