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Suspicions arise from assets declarations

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The Directorate of Public Officers’ Assets Declaration has said it is detecting some suspicious and incorrect declarations in the process of physically verifying the assets that over 12,000 public officers declared.

Director of Public Officers’ Assets Declarations, Chris Tukula, said it is clear that there have been elements of cheating and the law requires that the office should refer such cases to institutions such as the Anti- Corruption Bureau (ACB), the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and fiscal police for further investigations.

“These are assets that they have declared but you notice that certain levels of property are suspicious and we have to refer those to either the ACB or fiscal police to probe further because we can only limit ourselves to the document that was submitted by the declarant but the police and the ACB can go further than this scope of operations,” Tukula said.

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Misdeclaration may be in form of underdeclaration and overdeclaration and is an offence under the Assets Declaration Act but Tukula’s office does not have the powers to prosecute.

Tukula was, however, quick to say a comprehensive report with recommendations on the verification exercise, which started last year, and all the activities that the office is undertaking, await the Privileges Committee’s adoption before the report goes public.

He said the biggest challenge in the declaration may not be the correlation of what has been declared and what has been verified but concealment, where the officers just decide not to declare some of their property.

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Tukula said, at one time, the office scaled down the verification processes to match monthly funding, which was disrupting the office’s activities, as declaration and verification is capital intensive activity.

“To resolve that, we had to negotiate with the Ministry of Finance to give us a special waiver to become one of the very few institutions that now get funding on quarterly basis. The reason they conceded to that request was that there should be continuity of this particular activity,” he said.

The government recruitment freeze has also affected the assets directorate capacity, more especially in the verification department— which requires skilled people such as investigators, valuers, auditors forcing it to outsource some of the services.

The physical verification aspect was included to ascertain the existence of declared assets and their existence legitimacy. Targeted offices include the presidency, Cabinet ministers and legislators.

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