- Shun declaration of assets
- Declaration deadline was July 31
- Directorate to write APM
Four Cabinet ministers have not updated their assets, liabilities and business interests to the Office of the Director of Public Officers’ Declarations and risk being dismissed by the appointing authority, President Peter Mutharika for flouting the law.
Director of the Office of Director of Public Officers’ Declarations Christopher Tukula said yesterday the four are: Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe, Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and
Water Development George Chaponda, Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism Joseph Mwanamvekha and Minister of Sports and Culture Grace Chiumia.
The President and his second in command, Saulos Chilima, are among 6 000 public officers—out of 10 400 public officers—who have declared their assets within the legally prescribed period of July 1 to 31.
But speaking in an interview yesterday, Gondwe said he was aware of the requirement and submitted his updated declarations through the Office of the President and Cabinet.
“It is not true. I was one of the first to submit [the declarations]. I passed my papers through OPC. These people [Office of the Director of Public Officers’ Declarations] gave us a lecture two months ago and I have done that,” he said.
Mwanamvekha asked for more time before responding because he was in a meeting, but added: “The fact is that, that is not true.”
On the other hand, Chaponda who is listed as having not declared said he made his submissions on the old form and it is now a question of updating.”
Chiumia also said she updated and submitted the form.
Tukula quoting Section 18 (1) of the Act said if a public officer fails to submit the required declaration without reasonable cause within the time determined by the Declaration of Assets Act (2013), he or she is liable to be dismissed from public office.
He said since time for declarations had elapsed and no deadline extensions were made, he would be writing the appointing authority of the ministers, the President, for him to act as prescribed by the Act.
“For civil sanctions, we will write the appointing authority recommending sanctions that should be imposed on the public officers who have not submitted their declarations. Possible sanctions include dismissal from public office,” Tukula said.
There were about 10 400 declarations last year, but nearly one month after the period of declaration, only 6 000 have submitted the updates.
Section 18 (1) of the Act states: “A listed public officer who, without reasonable cause, fails to submit the required declaration within the time determined by this Act shall, subject to the Constitution and any other written law, be liable to be dismissed from the public office.”
A response to an application for public access to the declarations which Weekend Nation submitted to the Office of the Director of Public Officers’ Declarations indicates that Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare
Dr. Jean Kalilani is another Cabinet minister who has not submitted her declarations but she gave a ‘reasonable excuse’ that her annual update would be submitted late due to official engagements.
“Further, note that currently we are not in receipt and custody of the July 2016 annual updates for the following listed public officers: Honourable Goodall Gondwe, Honourable Grace Chiumia, Honourable Joseph Mwanamvekha and Honourable George Chaponda,” Tukula said in a written response dated September 2 2016.
The Act allows for public access to declarations in accordance with the provision of Section 17 of the Act.
Tu ku l a s a i d i t w a s disheartening that Cabinet ministers could fail to comply with the law when the President and Vice-President were leading by example.
“It is unfortunate that all other public officers can comply but some don’t feel the need to do so. The law states that compliance will apply to every other public officer,” Tukula said.
He said failure to comply with this requirement would mean that the public officer has information to hide and his office is obliged to report to ACB and the appointing authority for sanctions.
The Office of the Director of Public Officers’ Declarations is expected to publish compliant and non-compliant public officers by the end of this month.
Last week, the Office of the Director of Public Officers’ Declarations told our sister paper The Nation that there was low compliance on assets declaration, saying nearly half of the public officers d e s i g n a t e d t o d e c l a r e assets and liabilities were yet to do so. The statement prompted the Office of the Director of Public Officers’ Declarations to threaten that the non-compliant officers risk prosecution or dismissal.
There were about 10 400 declarations last year but nearly one month after the period of declaration, only 6 000 have submitted the updates.
Failure to declare assets within the prescribed time attracts a dismissal from office upon recommendation of the Office of the Director of Public Officers Declarations while public officers who submit inaccurate or false information face conviction and disqualification from holding any public office for seven years, according to Section 21 of the Declaration of Assets Act.
In the 2016/17 National Budget, the directorate has been allocated K472 million which will enable them to verify only 200 declarations against the 11 500 expected to be received, according to the assets declarations programme.