About 16 000 public officers have declared their assets in the 2022/2023 financial year, the Office of the Director of Public Officers’ Declarations (Odpod) has disclosed.
Speaking on Thursday on the sidelines of a declarations orientation workshop for media practitioners in Zomba, Public Officers’ Declarations director Michael Chiusiwa described this as “a great improvement as compared to the past”.
But Chiusiwa bemoaned loopholes in the Assets Declaration law in terms of effecting the stated punishments, which are job dismissal if an officer fails to declare his/her assets or a two-year imprisonment for making a false declaration.
“Our powers end at making recommendations, if somebody has not complied and we have made recommendations for dismissal and the relevant authority has not implemented that recommendation, we have no powers to proceed,” he said.
Chiusiwa suggested that to address the gap, the law should clearly stipulate what the director should do in the event that there is no response to the recommendations.
The Asset Declarations Law seeks to promote integrity, transparency, accountability and rule of law.
Odpod collaborates with other agencies such as the Anti-Corruption Bureau and police in implementing the law.
In his remarks, Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences (Mubas) head of the Department of Journalism and Media Studies Jolly Ntaba said media gatekeepers have a critical role to play in ensuring transparency and accountability in public institutions, adding that lack of the same has cost the nation a lot.
He said with the proliferation of social media, professional media needs to be responsible, and not take part in spreading rumours and speculations.
Said Ntaba: “The media needs to be able to understand and distinguish roles of different institutions, including the Odpod, to be able to share accurate information to the public.”
Following the change in government’s fiscal year, listed public officers were expected to submit their declaration forms between April 1 and 30 2022.
Section 15 (e) of the assets law obliges public office holders, their immediate family members and associates to declare their full financial status by disclosing details such as bank accounts, location of the accounts and names of the banking institutions at the beginning of every financial year.