Compliance to updating declared assets and liabilities remains low among public officers despite repeated pleas for adherence, the Office of the Director of Public Officers’ Declarations has said.
In an interview yesterday, director of Public Officers Declarations Christopher Tukula said while some officers have updated their assets and liabilities, slight progress has been registered so far.
He said several institutions have been collecting the declarations at institutional level and belatedly submitted the information to his office accompanied by letters explaining reasons behind the delays.
Said Tukula: “The position has just improved a bit, but I don’t have the actual statistics right now. But those that had delayed were normally giving reasons for the delay.”
The assets office has so far received about 11 000 declarations from the public officers since the exercise started in 2014, he said.
On the other hand, about 6 000 public officers had submitted their updates by September, with the majority being holders of influential political offices such as the President, Vice-President, Cabinet ministers and members of Parliament (MPs).
In August, the office said just half of the officers designated to declare their assets and liabilities had complied.
Under the law, the public officers are required to update records of their declared assets and liabilities each financial year from July 1 to 31 while those just joining the service are expected to declare immediately.
Failure to declare assets within the prescribed period attracts dismissal from office upon recommendation of the director of the assets office while public officers who submit false or inaccurate data face conviction and disqualification from holding any public office for seven years, according to Section 21 of the Declaration of Assets Act.
In September, Tukula threatened to recommend sanctions to President Peter Mutharika to be imposed on four senior Cabinet ministers—Goodall Gondwe (Finance, Economic Planning and Development), George Chaponda (Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development), Joseph Mwanamvekha (Industry, Trade and Tourism) and Grace Chiumia (Home Affairs and Internal Security)—for allegedly failing to declare their assets within the prescribed period.
Tukula also said the assets’ verification process, including for the President and Vice-President Saulos Chilima, had just started and was yet to be completed.
He said his officers have been travelling across the country, engaging assets analysts to verify the declared assets.
Said Tukula: “The process started for the targeted five percent, but
it is still progressing, actually the officers had to be recalled from the field just before the holiday because we needed to have evaluation meetings.”
But the director also expressed concern with public failure to utilise his office as provided for in the law.
He said the situation remains low and as a mitigating factor they have allocated funds in the budget for civic education programmes targeting the increase in public access.
“We would like to use the district commissioners’ structures as centre points for collecting forms because we are centrally located and not accessible at district level,” he said, adding the idea was to enhance the civic education component of the public access.
In the 2016/17 National Budget, the directorate was only allocated K472 million which was just enough to verify 200 declarations against the more than 11 000. n