JB’s assets will not be made public, says Malawi Attorney General

Attorney General Anthony Kamanga has said the assets declaration statement which President Joyce Banda made early this year will not be made public as widely demanded, saying the current legislation is silent on the matter.

There has been public pressure on the Speaker of the National Assembly Henry Chimunthu Banda office to reveal the value and other details of President Banda’s assets.

Chimunthu Banda last week asked for a legal opinion from the Attorney General  (AG) on how to handle the President’s assets declralation.

But while confirming that the President has declared her assets, Kamanga has said it will not be disclosed to the public.

“Her Excellency declared her assets when initially she was elected Vice President but although there was no legal requirement for her to declare her assets again upon ascending to the presidency she made a further declaration,” Kamanga said on Tuesday in an interview with private radio staton, Zodiak.

Attorney General Kamanga: The law is silent
Attorney General Kamanga: The law is silent

“The Speaker (of Parliament) and OPC (Office of the President) have that information.”

“If you look at the current framework, there is unfortunately no provision in the laws to empower the Speaker to make that information public. This is one of the challenges we have identified and were working on a framework to make sure that there is access to the declarations,” said Kamanga.

The Attorney General said there is need to balance public interest and the right to privacy which he said is enshrined in the Republican Constitution.

“This is a very delicate matter, delicate in the sense that true the public has the right of access to what I will call public information but that right must be balanced with an equally important right – the right to privacy.”

Chairperson of the Public Appointments Committee (PAC) and Declaration of Assets Nick Masebo (a DPP member) also noted in an interviews that the relevant parliamentary standing orders are silent as to which public officedocument declaring assets would be deposited, suggesting the need for an overhaul of the provisions.

Masebo said it was up to government, the Malawi Law Commission, to establish a public office where the document declaring the assets could be deposited and state who exactly must declare their assets.

Legal experts, civil society activist and also a Nyasa Times editorial have advocated  that the provision on assets declaration in the Constitution requires an enabling act if it is to be effective and usable

The AG said the Ministry of Justice is fast-tracking the process of  the-yet-to be tabled Public Officers Declaration of Assets, Liabilities and Business Interest Bill – 2013.

President Banda—who assumed the presidency in April 2012 following the death of president Bingu wa Mutharika—initially refused to declare her assets, arguing she had already declared the assets when she was Vice-President.

But Office of President and Cabinet disclosed  that the President declared her assets this year, contradicting her earlier stand.

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