The Ministry of Finance has maintained a requirement for an Auditor General (AG) to possess a valid Malawi Accountants Board (MAB) practising certificate which is widely viewed as restrictive.
The requirement, provided for in Section 5 of the Public Audit Act, is blamed the country’s failure to recruit a permanent Auditor General for four years.
Other requirements include a master’s degree in finance, commerce or accountancy and 10 years post-qualification experience.
The Ministry of Finance advertised a vacancy in the September 4 edition of our sister newspaper Weekend Nation with valid practising certificate as a requirement despite that last year moves were being made to remove the clause following concerns that it was restrictive.
The ministry had not responded to our questionnaire as we went to press, but the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Malawi (Icam)—which forms part of the AG appointment process— said plans to amend the Act were halted.
In an interview yesterday, Icam chief executive officer Francis Chinjoka Gondwe said: “There is a new development and the requirements will be maintained so that we promote the highest standards in the profession.”
Last December, he told Nation on Sunday that government has been suitable person for the position because there are only around 60 accountants with a MAB practicing licence. struggling to recruit a
Gondwe said : “Accountants that have these licences are all in the private sector. They can’t offer to be Auditor General because they will be paid less. Amending the Act, therefore, is being considered as a solution.”
He could not commit when asked yesterday if the AG package has been made more attractive. He, however, said they will intensify publicising the vacancy in a bid to attract more applicants.
Ministry of Finance spokesperson Williams Banda last year also confirmed discussions with Icam to amend the Act, saying: “The move would remove the discriminatory clauses, including those that exclude public servants [from rising to the position].”
Meanwhile, Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee vice-chairperson Ned Poya in an interview opposed the decision to maintain the clause.
He said: “What this means is that some people in the National Audit Office who are capable and know the system better will not be given a chance simply because they do not have the licence.
“What it means is that they will end up recruiting someone who is an outsider and doesn’t have full knowledge of the operations of that office.”
Parliament inserted the ‘valid practising licence’ requirement when it amended the Public Audit Act in 2018. Since then, government has not employed a permanent AG after the retirement of Stevenson Kamphasa that year.
Since then, there have been two acting AG’s—Thomas Makiwa and incumbent Rexie Chiluzi—both of whom did not possess operating licences at the time of their appointment.
The Public Accounts and Auditors Act stipulates that to qualify for operating licence, a qualified accountant should, among others, have a minimum of three years of post-qualification experience in the office of a practising accountant in an audit firm in auditing services.
The person must also pass Malawi Taxation, Malawi Company Law and Audit Assurance examinat ions administered by the Malawi Accountants Board