The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament has described the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) as toothless in its approach to the fight against corruption because it is merely an administrative body.
PAC acting chairperson Kamlepo Kalua said on Tuesday, FIU, a government organ established under the Money Laundering, Proceeds of Serious Crimes and Terrorist Financing Act, needs to be empowered if issues of Cashgate are not to be repeated.
He said: “We are in a mess if we have such institutions working and trying to put issues of Cashgate behind us. We are in for a long haul and this is very sad. Why should we have an intelligence body which cannot prosecute? Why does it [FIU] exist in the first place? I am afraid with this pace, Cashgate will continue.”
Kalua, speaking during the ongoing PAC meetings in Lilongwe, also said government needs to seriously empower the FIU if things are to improve in Malawi.
According to Kalua, institutions such as FIU cannot just sit and analyse documents without effecting arrests.
He added: “And most importantly, the director is in an acting capacity. She needs to be on full time.”
FIU acting director Atuweni-Tupochile Phiri, whose responses apparently did not satisfy the curiosity of the Members of Parliament (MPs), said the FIU’s mandate is to receive and disclose suspicious financial information from financial institutions, analyse and disseminate the same as intelligence reports to law enforcement agencies and supervisors of financial institutions while maintaining confidentiality as required by law.
She said in an interview later: “Yes, in a way we are toothless, they [PAC] are right. But what needs to be understood is that we are administrative, we can never force and arrest. There are times we are even stopped from carrying out investigations as it is claimed classified.”