The legal mandate of the acting Auditor General (AG) has expired, but government is yet to appoint a replacement for retired Stephenson Kamphasa.
The development has prompted the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Malawi (Icam) to caution government to expedite the process of recruiting Kamphasa’s replacement to avoid breaching the law.
Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe said the process to appoint a new AG is at an advanced stage and that a name would be submitted to Parliament’s Public Appointments Committee soon.
Acting AG Thomas Makiwa is only mandated to be in that position for six months, according to the amended Public Audit Act, Section 5 (b) (1).
The Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) has until March 20 to make the appointment for Public Appointments Committee to approve before Parliament winds up until June.
In the event that the appointment is not made within the period, the Executive will be in breach of Section 184 of the Constitution which states that “there shall be the office of the Auditor General who shall audit and report on the public accounts of Malawi” mandated to submit reports to Parliament at least once a year.
Government promised that a new AG would be appointed by December 2018, but there are further delays, a development which Icam urges the government to correct with speed.
In an interview on Tuesday, the minister said there was an independent body which conducted interviews after an advert was placed in the local papers asking for a candidate for the position.
“There were about three people who were selected and the President has chosen one, but we will, however, wait for the approval of Parliament, I should give the Parliamentary Committee on Public Appointments the name. They will be the ones with a final say,” he said.
President Peter Mutharika appointed Harold Mwala as AG on June 18 2018 last year when he assented to the amended Public Audit Act which outlined a different process of appointment.
However, the appointment faced resistance from some donors and Icam. The accountants’ professional body argued that the appointee did not qualify because he was not a registered public auditor as the law states.
According to the new Act, in the event of a vacancy in the office of the AG, the minister shall publish in the Gazette and at least in two newspapers of widest circulation in Malawi.
The minister then shall appoint a panel to shortlist and conduct interviews to select a minimum of two and a maximum of three candidates for the position which shall be submitted to the President.
Public Appointments Committee chairperson Lingson Belekanyama has since said they are waiting from the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development to give them the names of the shortlisted candidates as they haven’t been updated on anything.
Icam chief executive officer Francis Chinjoka Gondwe said there is need for government to expedite the process of recruiting an AG so that the country runs away from breaching the law.
A source at the National Audit Office said the implications of not having a substantive AG include the suffering of operations of the office which need the AG, like signing and commissioning audits.
With the delays, a backlog of audits is likely to happen and this could in the long run affect checks and balances on how the government is accounting for the resources at its disposal. n