The Office of the Speaker of Parliament has formally authorised Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament to interrogate various agencies about former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika’s estimated K61 billion ($85.3 million at current rate) wealth amassed in eight years.
Briefing journalists at Parliament Building in Lilongwe on Friday, PAC chairperson Alekeni Menyani and his deputy Kamlepo Kalua announced that the Office of the Speaker of National Assembly has officially written PAC to take over the preliminary probe efforts into the late Mutharika’s unexplained wealth.
He said PAC has been asked to interrogate government agencies and department, authenticate the document and report the matter to the next meeting of Parliament in November 2016.
Said Menyani: “The Speaker has formally asked us to authenticate whether the matter that was raised by MP [Member of Parliament] for Mzimba East was true and worth probing or not. As soon as Parliament rises the committee will start inviting organisations to help the committee authenticate the document.”
However, Menyani said considering that most of the agencies they are expecting support from are under government—which currently is being led by Democratic Progressive Party, the party founded by the late Mutharika—those invited will be required to make statements under oath.
The organisations lined up to help in the authentication of the documents include Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM), Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), Bankers Association of Malawi (BAM), office of Director of Asset Declaration, office of Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) as well as office of the Ombudsman.
The former president’s estimated K61 billion wealth, as established by YMW Property Investment Limited after his death in 2012, became the talk of town as eight years earlier Mutharika had declared his wealth to be about K150 million ($209 790).
Two weeks ago, Mzimba West MP Harry Mkandawire (People’s Party-PP) opened a can of worms in Parliament when, rising on a matter of concern, asked government to update Malawians on whether there were efforts to recover the K61 billion the former president is alleged to have stolen and stashed in foreign banks.
However, Speaker of Parliament Richard Msowoya curtailed the discussion in Parliament on the basis that the documents Mkandawire presented as evidence of the stolen money were not authentic.
Kalua said since Parliament has officially given the committee a nod to carry on the exercise, the committee will also look into Mutharika’s local business interests.
He said: “Since the process has started, I think it would be imperative to extend the probe into his local investments interests as well.”
Parliamentary Standing Order 161 mandates PAC to consider and report on audited public accounts and examine other documents concerning financial controls, accounting and auditing in relation to public expenditure.
The committee has to satisfy itself that there are cases involving nugatory expenditure and financial irregularities in a year under review or in reports of the Auditor General.
PAC has previously supported a probe in Cashgate—the plunder of public resources at Capital Hill exposed in 2013—which resulted in a forensic audit currently under consideration by the House, leading to prosecution of several government officers and business persons.