…several PSs, Directors, DCs in trouble too
Six lawmakers including Civic Education Minister Grace Chiumia could lose parliamentary seats after the assets office wrote Speaker of the National Assembly to declare their seats vacant.
Public Declarations of Assets and Liabilities director Christopher Tukula confirmed in an interview that the office has also written President Peter Mutharika to dismiss Chiumia from Cabinet for failing to declare her assets since a deadline passed in July 2017.
The six lawmakers—Chiumia, George Chaponda, Christopher Mzomera Ngwira, Willard Gwengwe, Henry Mpofu and Davies Kadzinja—also failed to provide an explanation to the assets office for failure to declare their assets during the 2016/2017 financial year.
According to Tukula, several other senior government officials in the mainstream civil service, including controlling officers such as principal secretaries, directors and district commissioners, will also be recommended for dismissal over the same malpractice.
The move by the assets office follows a story by our sister publication Weekend Nation which recently reviewed how several Cabinet ministers have broken the law by, among others, failing to disclose details of their financial transactions such as salaries, allowances, loans, gifts received, and also failing to disclose assets registered by their immediate family.
According to a letter addressed to Speaker of the National Assembly Nation Online has seen, titled “Request for Declaration of Seats of the National Assembly Vacant”, Tukula informs Speaker Richard Msowoya that by failing to submit the 2016/2017 declarations, the MPs are in contravention of Section 14 (3) (a) of the assets law.
“The said declarations were due for submission between 1st and 30th July 2017. You may wish to note, Your Honour, that the Honorable Members’ non-compliance with the above quoted provision comes despite several pieces of advice on their legal obligations and reminders, in both writing and personal contacts (phone calls). It is worth noting that the matter was already reported to the Monitoring Committee of Parliament in spirit of Section 13 (b) of the Act.
It adds: “It is against this background that pursuant to Section 18 (1) of the Public Officers (Declaration of Assets, Liabilities and Business Interests Act 2013 as read with Section 63 (i) (e) of the constitution of the Republic of Malawi, I write to seek the services and platforms by declaring the Parliamentary seats held by the above named Honorable Members of the National Assembly vacant with immediate effect, subject to the fulfillment of the necessary parliamentary procedures.”
Msowoya could not comment on the matter, referring Nation Online to Clerk of Parliament Fiona Kalemba who could not be immediately reached.
But Tukula in an interview said his office has an obligation to report to relevant authorities on such matters and was only following up on a report to the Parliamentary Monitoring Committee which has oversight over the assets office.
He further said initially a total of 25 members of Parliament failed to declare assets but several lawmakers later wrote the office to explain why they had failed to comply with the law in time.
“Under this law, Malawians through members of Parliament have agreed that there is no place for public officers who don’t declare their assets….. Under the law we report to the Monitoring Committee. Last meeting they promised to engage the defaulters directly. The date which the committee set has passed and we are only asking for the Speaker to declare their seats vacant. We are doing this to all public officers; we have all levels of defaulters, Cabinet minister, MPs, PSs, Directors and others,” said Tukula.
Chiumia could not be immediately reached for her comment but in an interview, Chaponda blamed an error that led him to sending the assets document to a long address.
“My documents were already submitted but from what I heard on the radio I was equally surprised. There is nothing, everybody knows my assets, my case was on television and newspaper, if somebody wants my constituency it’s too late,” said Chaponda jokingly.
Section 15 (e) of the assets law obliges public office holders, their immediate family members and associates to declare their full financial status by disclosing details such as bank accounts, the location of the account and name of the banking institutions.
The section also requires full disclosure of any other asset the official or any member of his or her immediate family has financed, owns in any other name other than his or her own and description of the asset, its location, date of acquisition, amount paid for the asset, its current valuation, and name or names in which the asset is held or owned. The law requires all Cabinet members, senior government officials and members of Parliament to declare their assets.
But according to details of various declarations Weekend Nation accessed for financial years 2016/17 and 2017/18—most Cabinet members only name physical assets acquired.
Government spokesperson and Information Minister Nicholas Dausi in an earlier interview dismissed any assertions that Cabinet members were deliberately breaking the law whose penalty is loss of the Cabinet job or imprisonment for two years.
Said Dausi: “There is nothing to hide, I think the declaration office will be able to explain what is required so that every officer declares what is required. Some of those questions are better not answered by legal officers because they are questions of law. We may end up dragging each other to court arenas.”
Mutharika’s Cabinet first declared assets in July 2014 on assuming office. The President stated that he had more than K1.5 billion in cash held in various bank accounts within Malawi and abroad.
For instance, he said he had over $2 million (about K1.4 billion) in two bank accounts he holds in the United States of America where he spent most of his working life.
In Malawi, Mutharika had about K70 million at Standard Bank and a fleet of nine vehicles which he bought between 2001 and 2014 also valued in millions of kwacha.
Since those initial declarations, there has been murky updates that fail to capture his current financial position. In his latest declarations, President Mutharika did not mention the assets of his wife Gertrude and only declared one car—a used Cardillac Escalade Station Wagon valued at K55 223 599.55.
During the same time 2014, Vice-President Saulos Chilima had declared—mostly registered jointly with his wife Mary—several bank accounts holding about K8 million; five farms, several plots and houses and insurance policies valued at about K7 million.
Chilima also declared, among others, two houses both in Lilongwe (Area 43 and 18) valued at K51 million, six plots valued at over K15.8 million; four vehicles worth K65 million while his wife has three vehicles whose total value is K33.2 million.
In his latest declarations, Chilima’s declaration cites a few loans from specified sources as the source of some of his wealth and is a bit more detailed and adds details of loans acquired by wife Mary.
While falling short of disclosing his complete financial status, Chilima declared that between 1st July 2016 and 30th June 2017, he acquired land situated at plot number 16/7/1, Njewa, in District of Lilongwe valued at K3 million; land situated at plot Number 16/7/2 at Njewa, in the District of Lilongwe valued at K3 million; land situated at Njewa valued at K2 million ; land situated at Senga Bay in the District of Salima valued at K4 million and land situated at Nyambadwe, plot number NY658, Blantyre valued at K6.5 million.
Further on liabilities and assets, the Vice-President cites two loans (a) loan from office of Vice President and Cabinet: K24 million (b) Loan worth K100 million against investment at Alliance Capital (The Loan was used for Agricultural Commodity Trading adding; “I am renting out my property at Area 43/2/40, City of Lilongwe to Standard Bank (MW) Limited at USD 3500 per month (b) my spouse, Mary Chilima, acquired land situated at Area 41, Plot Number 41/35 in the City of Lilongwe valued at K9.75 million.”
—4 ministers had nothing to declare—
Some four ministers—Joseph Mwanamvekha (Agriculture) Atupele Muluzi (Health), Goodall Gondwe (Finance), Anna Kachikho (Lands and Urban Development) simply responded “Not Applicable” on the declaration form implying they had nothing to declare in the period while the law asks them to declare their income and its source.
Foreign Affairs Minister Emmanuel Fabiano declared a lost plot No. MC 22 in Zomba, a new wholesale shop at Mbulumbudzi Trading Centre in Chiradzulu and 20 head of cattle.
- Labour Minister Francis Kasailadeclared a 1.5 tonne Toyota Dyna pick up valued at K5 million, K25 million from Alice Civil Engineering and K12 million from sale of soya beans and maize.
- Minister of Gender and Disability Jean Kalilani declared she bought two plots in Mponela at K10 million and K7 million, a few clothing and suitcase, processing to sell a 4X4 Nissan and buy a new vehicle, helping needy students with school fees and support items amounting to K750 000 per term and planning to buy and sell soya.
- Local Government and Rural Development Minister Kondwani Nankhumwa declared one maize mill, a dwelling house under construction, land at Mulanje Boma and a Toyota Prado.
- Henry Mussa declared massive construction projects in Area 10 in Lilongwe and plots in Mangochi and furniture.
- Jappie Mhango declared purchasing a Mercedes Benz, Toyota Raum and a Ranger but did not indicate the cost of each vehicle.
- Samuel Tembenu declared purchasing property at Senga Bay in Salima valued at K215 million.
- Deputy Minister Clement Mukumbwa declared awaiting payment of K80 million for Unicef projects in Chitipa and Karonga for constructing pit latrines and K2.5 million from sale of a vehicle.
- Anna Kachikho declared a Toyota Vitz 2006 at K3 million and a Toyota Prado.
- There was not much detail from other ministers; some members such as Cecilia Chazama declared registering new companies and two vehicles which she lost in road accidents while Aggrey Massi had nothing to declare.