Malawi rights body pushes JB to publicly declare her wealth

The state-funded Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC)  is challenging President Joyce Banda and public officials to lead by “the principles espoused in the constitution they swore to uphold”, by ensuring that the contents of their declaration of assets documents are made public.

A statement signed by the Commission’s Chairperson Ambassador Sophie Asimenye Kalinde   says the Commission notes with regret that in spite of several immediate and technically-related causes for the fraud and misappropriation, these developments are for the most part, a result of several structural, deep-rooted and systemic causes, and a result of several long term lapses in the public administration.

“The recent developments raise serious issues of broader structural challenges relating to public governance in the country. Thus, the Commission reiterates its position on the issue of the failure by the President and concerned public officials to comply with the requirement on declaration of assets as provided for in the Constitution, where this is purposively read,” the statement.

It says failure to declare assists contributes to an environment devoid of appropriate accountability and transparency mechanisms for public resources, which is one of the major structural factors contributing to the disintegration of the public accountability mechanism.

Kalinde: The President should make her assets declaration documents public
Kalinde: The President should make her assets declaration documents public

“Following on the noticeable disregard on the part of the concerned duty bearers to fully comply with the declaration of assets requirement, including on the part of the concerned offices to make public such declarations, the Commission has observed with regret the noticeable disintegration of the public resources accountability and transparency mechanisms as evidenced by the massive misappropriation of public resources as reported up to now,” it says.

The statement says in terms of sections 12 and 13(o) of the Constitution, these offices are expected to observe the highest degree of accountability, transparency and financial probity, and ensure public trust and good governance. Therefore, the failure to demonstrate goodwill on the part of the President, concerned public officials and concerned offices on the declaration of assets, inevitably breeds attitudes of sheer disregard to these ethos.

“It undermines the essence of fiduciary duties and responsibilities those entrusted with public offices are expected to observe and uphold in the discharge of their duties. It is non-exemplary and goes against the spirit of the principles of the declaration of assets requirement. In the long run this has the potential of subverting any accountability and transparency mechanisms and predictably breeding a laisez-faire attitude.”

The Commission says the declaration of assets will contribute to addressing the structural challenge relating to a seemingly existent attitude of impunity where accountability and transparency in handling public resources is concerned.

“The Commission is aware of the fact that incidences of fraud, misappropriation of public resources and corruption cumulatively go beyond the period the present administration has been in charge,” says the statement.

However addressing a news conference on her return from the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday President Banda wondered why people are putting more pressure on her to openly reveals the contents of her assents document than was the case with her two predecessors.

“Please don’t make me think that you are doing this to me because I am a woman. This is something to do with gender I think,” she said while maintaining that she can’t do that, otherwise people will still be demanding more.

President Banda indicated that she was not forthcoming on calls from some Malawians to declaration her wealth because of the legal technicalities in the current bill.

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