The Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) says it is optimistic that it will combat financial crimes, having started implementing reforms that President Peter Mutharika approved last month.
In a written response to a questionnaire on what the authority is doing to reduce financial crimes, FIA public relations and public education manager Masautso Ebere said they will work to achieve the reforms within the four-year time frame (2018-22).
The President approved that FIA establishes a direct link of periodic updates on critical information pertaining to government and other agencies as well as the operationalisation of reporting suspicious financial transactions from the public.
Ebere said FIA continues to get guidance from the Public Sector Reforms Management (PSRM) secretariat and is hopeful to implement the reforms within the period.
The three reform areas which were proposed and the President consented to, are the establishment of a direct link or periodic updates on critical information held by other government agencies; reporting of suspicious financial transactions from the public; and establishing a public relations department.
Said Ebere: “So far, FIA has initiated an ICT link with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services. We are in a working relationship with the department in which we vet applications for business residence permits and permanent residence permits.”
FIA and the Immigration Department are working on an electronic portal for receipt and sending of documents on permits for vetting.
“When completed, the system is expected to shorten the time taken for vetting and providing feedback by FIA from the current five working days to around two days,” added Ebere.
On operationalising reporting of suspicious financial transactions from the public, FIA says it is working with Deloitte Malawi to establish a tip-offs anonymous system of reporting which anyone can do, through letters, e-mails, or visiting FIA offices to provide the details in person.
The reforms will also improve access to financial and related information to help FIA with initiation and enrichment analysis on subjects and increase understanding of roles of the FIA in combating financial crimes.
A statement signed by PSRM chief director in the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC), Seodi White, states that the President signed and approved the reforms on May 10 2019.
“These reforms will result in improved tracing of assets linked to subjects under FIA analysis of law enforcement, investigations and prosecution,” she observes.
FIA was established under Section 3(1) of Financial Crimes Act (FCA) as principal national agency responsible for preventing and combating financial crimes.
The functions of FIA, as set out under Section 4 of the FCA, include requesting, receiving and analysing reports submitted by reporting institutions; submitting reports to relevant law enforcement agencies or supervisory authorities based on financial intelligence analysis; and creating and maintaining a database of statistics and records on anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism.
Since the enforcement of the FCA in 2017, FIA has reviewed its bilateral memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM), Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA), Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services.
It has further signed bilateral MoUs with the Malawi Police Service, National Intelligence Service, Office of the Director of Public Officers’ Declarations, Department of National Parks and Wildlife, National Audit Office and the Malawi Gaming Board.
And it says it is negotiating with other institutions for further MoUs to strengthen its efforts to combat illegal externalisation of foreign currency.