President Peter Mutharika’s bank account in the United States of America (USA) is among assets declared by public officers to be verified by the director of public officers’ assets declaration from December 14 2015.
Assets director Christopher Tukula and his team announced this during a news conference in Lilongwe yesterday.
Initially, Mutharika declared, among others, that he had $8 million in a foreign bank account. However, the amount was later clarified to be $2 million amid public queries.
The Assets Office later clarified that the figure ‘8’ was mistaken for the ‘$’ symbol.
Locally, the President declared K70 million ($116,251) at Standard Bank and a fleet of nine vehicles which he reportedly bought between 2001 and 2014 also valued in millions of kwacha.
The account in question is held at Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association (TIAA) in the USA where the former law professor worked for decades.
Apart from Mutharika, former president Joyce Banda declared assets valued at K461 million ($765,594), including ownership of 63 vehicles, while incumbent Vice-President Saulos Chilima declared K51 million ($84,696.9) worth of assets. The two will also undergo scrutiny from the public protector.
On whether the directorate had investigated the change by the President from the initial declarations, Tukula said the body was yet to undertake a formal probe into the matter.
However, he said the matter will now be prioritised as the directorate moves in to physically verify the declarations.
Tukula said: “We cannot say whether the correction was done in good faith or not. We can only do that after the verification process. The investigation into that account will require a lot of diplomatic protocols because it is an offshore account.
“We can assure the public that the declaration will be subject to rigorous physical verification. It will be naive for us to say we will be verifying other accounts without verifying that one [of the President].”
Tukula also said his office has now opened access to public declarations of all public officials after initially limiting access to senior, elected and political public officials’ declarations due to capacity challenges.
He urged the media and civil society to remain vigilant and actively support the office so that the law is implemented to the letter.
Tukula further explained that the directorate has been profiling assets declared and analysed the declarations for targeting verifications following plausibility checks.
Further, he said some assets will be targeted due to information from whistleblowers or owing to the nature of office, for example, the presidency.
At least 10 000 public officers declared assets, but Tukula reminded the public that the exercise is an annual event.
He also revealed that the office will soon start tabling in Parliament a list of public officials who declare or fail to declare assets.
The directorate also said it has now opened a database for all public officials to enable the citizenry to easily access declarations by public officers.
The Declaration of Public Officers’ Assets Act new came into effect in 2014 and mandates elected and other public officials, among them, the President, Vice-President, Cabinet ministers, members of Parliament (MPs), heads of government departments and agencies, all employees of accounting, procurement or revenue offices, including traffic police officers, to declare assets.
The law seeks to put in check public officers to account for the wealth they accumulate while in office.
It also empowers the directorate to verify the declarations and the public to access the declarations through requests.