In a space of six months, the Public Appointments Committee (Pac) of Parliament has rejected two Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) designated directors-general (DG), with the committee keeping a tight lid on grounds for the rebuttal.
However, lawyer Jai Banda has said the continued absence of the FIA DG could reverse strides the country has made in fighting money laundering and related vices.
In the latest development, Pac rejected FIA acting DG Vincent Chipeta, Tuesday.
The authority has had no fulltime DG since Atuweni Juwayeyi- Agbermodji left the job. The then FIA director of monitoring and analysis Vincent Chipeta was put in the position in acting capacity in December 2019.
The FIA DG is appointed by the President following a competitive interviewing and recruitment process, but is subject to confirmation by Pac.
The Financial Crimes Act (FCA) requires that, for someone to be appointed DG, the post has to be advertised and, after a minimum of 14 days, applications be submitted.
Section 7(3) of the FCA requires that diligence checks be conducted, after which a responsible minister submits a maximum of three names to the President, who chooses a preferred candidate.
However, 15 out of 17 Pac members have rejected the President’s proposed candidate Chipeta, sources within the committee confided in The Daily Times Tuesday. Four members were absent.
Pac Chairperson Joyce Chitsulo, who refused to divulge results, said Parliament would communicate the outcome to the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC), which would further communicate to the candidate.
“It will be very unfair for me to say how it [the confirmation] has gone right now before even the OPC, who appointed the person, [is informed]. We, as a committee, have made a decision. We cannot leave the interviews open without making a decision; a decision has been made,” Chitsulo said while keeping a tight lid on the decision.
But we have learned that, during the interview, Chipeta said he was committed to improving operations of FIA once confirmed.
He further indicated that he would ease information flow to stakeholders.
He also said he would recruit more officers.
Meanwhile, Banda has said delays to fill the vacancy on fulltime basis could be costly to the country.
He said keeping the position vacant for a long time defeats the purpose of fighting money laundering in the country.
“In the history of this nation, it has been a trend that it takes long before a vacant post is filled,” Banda said.
He, however, said the institution needed to have a leader who is supposed to guide it, hence it is important that someone with relevant qualifications should be appointed.
“I don’t know Chipeta’s qualifications, so I don’t know the reasons for Pac’s rejection,” Banda added.
By rejecting Chipeta, Pac has rejected two FIA top officials within six months, a decision People’s Federation for National Peace and Development (Pefenap) Executive Director Edward Chaka says, in a statement issued yesterday, would negatively affect operations of FIA.
“As we all know, FIA is an important institution and important positions such as that of director should not remain unfilled for a long time. After all, FIA is a government agency set up by an Act of Parliament to monitor, investigate and fight money laundering as well as track illicit transactions. In the absence of a fulltime Director General, these functions suffer.
“In the absence of a full-time Director General, FIA cannot see to it that orders that lead to the freezing of bank and other accounts of those suspected of keeping proceeds of crime are signed,” the Pefenap statement reads.
In February this year, Pac members also rejected Juwayeyi- Agbermodji as DG.
“It is true that we, as a committee, met today to discuss several issues, one of which being the approval of the FIA CEO [chief executive officer]. Well we, as a committee, have come up with our decision regarding this matter but, as it stands, it is not yet a matter for public consumption,” Chitsulo told The Daily Times at the time.
During the confirmation of Juwayeyi-Agbermodji as FIA director, 16 members of the committee voted no while three members consented to the appointment
This was despite that Juwayeyi-Agbermodji, who holds a master’s in public international law and is a certified anti-money laundering specialist, is a member of the Malawi Bar Association. She was also, at the time, pursuing a master’s in anti-corruption compliance and collective action with the International Anti- Corruption Academy in Laxenburg, Austria.
Mathews Kasanda is a journalist who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from University of Malawi (The Polytechnic).
In 2015, Media Institute of Southern Africa awarded him the Best Print Media Education Journalist of the Year accolade.
He joined Times Group Newsroom in September 2019.