A public inquiry into how former president Bingu wa Mutharika acquired his wealth during his eight-year tenure of office has stalled for months, with no progress being made.
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament wanted to embark on the public inquiry last year but to date nothing has moved, raising doubts on its possible conclusion.
Mutharika is alleged to have amassed wealth estimated at K61 billion at the time of his death in 2012, a sharp rise from the K150 million assets he declared when he took office in 2004.
The late Mutharika’s wealth, valued on instructions from former president Joyce Banda in 2012 by Yeremiah Chihana’s YMW Property Investment Limited, raised eyebrows with some quarters alleging he siphoned taxpayers’ money; hence, the launch of the probe.
PAC vice-chairperson Kamlepo Kalua confirmed in an interview there was no progress due to lack of government commitment to fund the exercise.
He said: “Everything was set for the launch of the public inquiry but government has not been funding the exercise. We keep asking why the exercise is not being funded. This is very unfortunate because we could have dealt with the matter once and for all last year if not early this year.”
However, the vice-chairperson felt there was still time for them to conduct the inquiry should government release funds before the country goes to the polls in May next year. He said the inquiry was in the interest of the Public Finance Management Act.
But Treasury spokesperson Davis Sado said in an interview that Treasury funds every activity through Parliamentary secretariat depending on the approved budget and the cash-flow given to them.
“So, Parliament should be in a position to find out if that was not included in their wholesome budget which they submitted to Treasury and approved or it was a separate request for funding,” he said.
On his part, assistant Clerk of Parliament (CoP) responsible for protocol and public relations Leonard Mengezi said he was not aware of the funding issue.
He said: “Government funds every committee’s meetings and I don’t know how that could be funded if it was not part of the committee meetings. If it was outside that system, it is difficult to get extra funding. But I am not aware specifically how this issue was handled because there have been issues that have been handled by the cooperating partners if government does not fit in.”
The former president’s wealth raised eyebrows as his salary was around K1.5 million a month but within eight years, he accumulated K61 billion though just before winning the 2004 elections he declared to the Speaker of Parliament that his wealth was K150 million.
The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) had also been investigating the matter and last year, it told PAC when it appeared before it on the same issue that its probe was not progressing beyond mere suspicions following unsuccessful attempts to enter into intra-jurisdictional alliances.
According to ACB investigations and information sourced from estate valuers, Mutharika held accounts in local and international banks with funds amounting to K34 billion while K37.2 billion was in form of real estates. n