The Public Appointments Committee of Parliament has called for the speedy establishment of the Office of the Director of Public Officers Declarations which would be mandated to receive and verify declaration of assets of public officers, including the President and leaders of political parties.
President Joyce Banda on December 2 2013 assented to the Public Officers Declaration of Assets Bill, which Parliament passed in November and has since been gazetted to become law.
However, there has not been much progress on the establishment of the Office of the Director which is crucial for the process to start.
According to Section 7 (1) of the Act, the Public Appointments Committee has the mandate to appoint the director and his deputy upon advertising the vacancy through the Clerk of Parliament.
Parliament passed the amendment removing powers of the President to appoint the director following pressure from the opposition.
The committee chairperson Nick Masebo said in an interview that as it was with the tabling of the Bill last year, there is need to move with speed in establishing the office of the director to start applying the law.
“It is the committee’s mandate to appoint a director, but there have to be structures first and recruitment of other staff members for the director to start his work. The way it stands now, it is in the interest of the public to have this office in place and start its work immediately,” he said.
Attorney General (AG) Anthony Kamanga agreed with Masebo in an interview yesterday, but said it was a process which could not be done in a hurry to avoid unnecessary mistakes.
“I agree on the need to move with speed on this but it is a process and we would want to make sure everything is in place before the appointment of the director of the institution,” he said.
Kamanga confirmed his office wrote the Office of President and Cabinet and Department of Human Resource Management to work on the establishment of the institution.
The AG disclosed that the Act would come into effect and apply to all 48 public officers listed in the Act.
“The Act states clearly that once it comes into law, all those holding public offices as listed would have to comply immediately,” he said.
If the office could be established before the May 20 Tripartite Elections, President Joyce Banda would have to declare her assets to the new office.
According to Section 11 (2), the director would have powers to receive declarations, verify them and annually publicise the declarations in a gazette details of officers who have complied with the provisions.
The president’s powers on the Office of the Director of Public Officers Declaration have not been completely curtailed as she has powers to suspend the director or deputy pending investigations into acts of misconduct. During the period, the President has powers to appoint an acting director or deputy, according to Section 8 (2) of the Act.