“It’s not what you look at that matters; it’s what you see” -Henry David Thoreau
So how much is Peter Mutharika worth? Is it US $8.2 million or US $2 million?
Christopher Tukula, the Assets Director, came back to correct the figures his own office released and told us our president is actually not yet a kwacha billionaire.
I do not think we should allow Tukula to get away with murder. Surely he should not get away with just explaining that his office mis-read the dollar sign.
Really? No, Chris, no, we deserve better than that; we must be a joke of a nation to accept such tosh.
Look, Tukula should have realised that he was handling very sensitive information. He must have known that, with the recent revelations that some people were playing Monopoly with our taxes, what was in the declaration forms of public officers’ assets was of utmost importance.
As a journalist I would be the last to advocate for the withholding of information but I will also be the last to entertain half-baked information.
Why was the Assets chief rushing into releasing information he had not yet verified? He claims that the mistake came about because State House delivered the President’s declaration forms in hand-written form.
Well, he may not be a hand-writing expert but surely one must be high on something not exactly legal to mistake the dollar ($) sign with the figure eight (8). Let us imagine the President indicated the money in his US account was US $2 million. Maybe he is not familiar with the dollar symbol but surely Tukula is intelligent enough to understand that ‘US’ stands for United States. US8 million should surely have left him askance.
Or maybe the form just indicated $2 million without the ‘US’ prefixed. How could he just assume the money was dominated in US dollars and not any other currency?
And where did he get the point to denote US $8.2 million? Why did he not quote the figure as US $82 million if indeed he mistook the dollar sign as the figure 8? It just does not add up.
And this was not the only mistake on the President’s forms. There was one vehicle, a Merc, which the Assets Directorate said it cost Peter US $25,000,000. C’mon, good people, what was the man who would be our president in the US again? Some Madonna or Tom Cruise? Was the Merc an armoured one or a jet?
These, by the way, could have been honest mistakes to be fair to Tukula. But why was this excitement in releasing unverified raw data? I thought his office’s role is to collect information on various public officers’ assets, synthesise, scrutinise and verify such information?
Surely such amazing figures should have raised some eye-brows. If it was State House or his office that made these mistakes that should have been cleared before making the information public. After all Tukula himself told us some public officers did not understand the declaration forms and that he would send the forms back for them to fill them properly.
So what was the rush in releasing some public officers’ data when his office was still computing others? What if my interest was not on the President, the Vice President, the former president or the Leader of Opposition? What if my interest was on some obscure MP who did not understand the forms? Would it have made any sense for Tukula to tell me that that MP was still correcting his forms when some officers’ details were already in the public arena?
Tukula may argue that it was the media and other interested parties that requested the information. That is correct. But people were looking for correct information. He would not have been committing any crime had he politely and honestly told them his office was still scrutinising the information.
(By the way, by ‘correct’ information I mean as those declaring such information intended them to read. For some reason some public officers could have inflated or under-declared their assets. That, I think, is the proper reading of the term ‘raw’ information. Tukula’s job is to verify whether such ‘raw’ information is reflective of the true picture. Releasing such ‘raw’ but ‘correct’ information to the public may help him ascertain this.)
I hope Tukula realises that his premature release of the wrong data has informed a wrong national narrative. For starters, the President’s apologists already leapt to his defence, saying it was not strange for a professor teaching in the United States for 40 years to accumulate US $8.2 million. And yet his detractors were speculating that Peter deliberately inflated his wealth so that if he steals from government nobody should question if he suddenly becomes fabulously rich.
And yet another school of thought was of the view that State House realised that US $8.2 million was an unbelievable figure for a college professor, be they teaching in Zomba or Washington, and twisted Tukula’s arm to admit the computing faux pas to save the President’s face.
All these narratives do not do the President’s image any good at all.
By the way, with such ‘expensive’ mistakes on information of so important a personage, how do we begin to trust information on the declared assets of the other lowly public officers? How do we begin to have faith in an office so important that can make mistakes so careless?
No, Tukula’s explanation is as empty as it does not make sense. He must apologise to the President and the entire nation for releasing wrong data. And if we were a serious nation we should have been demanding his immediate resignation before he makes further ‘expensive’ mistakes.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :