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President, Vice President assets verification delays further

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The Directorate of Public Officers’ Declarations of Assets, Liabilities and Business Interests has said it will commence physical verification of assets of President Peter Mutharika and his deputy, Saulos Chilima, alongside other 200 public officers in October this year.

Head of the Directorate, Christopher Tukula, said in a telephone interview yesterday that since the exercise was suspended in March this year, there have been delays in funding the process by Treasury which then asked them to extend the exercise into the current financial year which started in July.

Tukula, however, disclosed that out of the K44 million budget which they presented to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, only K28 million has been remitted to the directorate’s account due to some budgetary cuts.

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He then disclosed an addition of over 40 public officers to the initial list of the President, his vice, Cabinet ministers and other 20 selected Members of Parliament (MPs) who would be targeted in the first phase.

“In this first phase, we are targeting everybody who has served in Cabinet since 2014, they are a priority because whoever comes to seek access to declarations has interest in them,” Tukula said.

He added that as the 2019 election year fast approaches, it is logical to start with such officers as they get more public scrutiny as a way of assuring the country of the legitimacy and authenticity of their declarations.

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The K28 million according to Tukula will only cater for domestic verifications, saying his office will use other government agencies which have international connections to gather information on their behalf.

He said that for wealth that is stacked in foreign banks, the directorate will partner the Financial Intelligence Authority who have a platform of obtaining financial information of anyone holding wealth abroad using international protocols.

“For online banking information, we are verifying it using the Financial Intelligence Authority, whom we have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with for that particular purpose,” he said.

Tukula said September has been committed to carrying out various other outstanding components of the declarations and thus gave assurance that a comprehensive report of the verifications would be ready in time for tabling in Parliament by his office’s monitoring committee during the mid-year budget review.

Information in Tukula’s office indicates that Mutharika declared that he has about $10 million in commercial banks locally and the United States of America, $1.7 million in a local bank and a fleet of nine vehicles bought between 2001 and 2014.

This will be the first time for the assets office to complete the physical verification process of any selected component since its establishment about three years ago.

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