CHIEF government spokesperson Chushi Kasanda says all Ministers have declared their assets and the information that only two public office bearers have done so is surprising.
And Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Gary Nkombo says he has been declaring his assets on an annual basis for a long time and even has a copy of the same declaration.
But Chapter One Foundation executive director Linda Kasonde argues that merely declaring one’s assets is partial compliance, as public office bearers have to declare their liabilities and sources of income to be fully compliant with the parliamentary and ministerial code of conduct.
In an interview, Kasanda said she was surprised to hear that only two Ministers had declared their assets because as far as she was concerned, everyone had done so.
“I think we all have. As far as I am concerned we all have. So I do not know where they have gotten that information from. As far as I am concerned, all the Ministers have declared, but then that is subject to confirmation. I think I need to confirm that. We have all declared. So I am surprised to hear that only two have declared. I think declaration is important because we hold public office,” she said.
Kasanda said it was important for public office bearers to declare their assets so that they were not seen to have amassed wealth while in office.
“So it is important that the people know what we are coming with so that we are not cited for having made money because you are holding this very important position. So I think it is important that people get to know because we are public figures. I do not think there should be a secret from any public figure. I should openly tell the nation what I have. So should questions come much later, even the public will be able to say when she came in, she had that. I think that is what is critical for all of us. So we are public figures and we owe it to the public,” she said.
“You see, declaration of assets I think should not be a problem. It should not be a problem at all. If you are a genuine person, you declare what you own. Why should I shy away from what I own? It is in the public interest. Like I said we owe it to the public so it is subject to confirmation. So I will find out but I do not agree with them. More than two people have actually declared their assets. So they are saying it is just the Ministry of Justice and who? No, everybody has declared but it is subject to confirmation.”
Meanwhile, Kasanda said the PF’s decision to shun youth and women’s day commemorations showed their unwillingness to unite with the country.
“They are at liberty because that is their democratic right. And if they feel they do not want to be part of this country, that is their democratic right. It does not compromise anything. I think what they are missing out is from the President’s pronouncements. Even when he went to the Vatican, he has been speaking unity in the country. Clearly, it shows that they are not ready for unity. It shows that they are not ready to unite with this country because we are talking about unity,” said Kasanda.
“This women’s day is not politically affiliated. So what they need to realise is that every woman, despite what the political affiliation is, remains a woman. I think it is important that they are part and parcel of this day. What is also frightening and at the same time worrying is that as women, they want to be decision makers, as women they want to find their space but how are you going to find your space if you are shunning away from such important events like this one? It does not help them at all.”
And Nkombo said he felt disadvantaged by revelations that only two Ministers had declared their assets when he had been doing so annually.
“This story suggesting that only two had declared their assets. There was something that was not done by Chapter One Foundation who had conducted their search. If you go to the Supreme Court even now, you will find that some of us have been declaring assets on an annual basis for a very long time. It is just a pity that I read this on my way to work because I have a copy of my declaration at home in my briefcase. When I read that, I felt a bit disadvantaged because even if it is not by law, the response is that maybe they have not been very thorough because some of us have been declaring assets. My point is they should just be thorough,” said Nkombo.
“Maybe the Supreme Court were the ones who were not thorough but we can demonstrate and I can prove to you that I have a current declaration before I even became a Minister, which was done soon after this Parliament was constituted. I think Chapter One Foundation should just dig deeper and they will find that maybe those are not the only two people who have declared their assets and liabilities because I have. If you go to the Supreme Court [you will find the declaration], because I delivered it myself at the office of the Chief Justice at that time, the late Mambilima. It is done for every sitting Parliament. So what I declared is current. It was under six months ago or less. What I declared was current. So maybe Chapter One Foundation just missed it but the point I am making is that we have always declared.”
But Kasonde said merely declaring one’s assets was partial compliance as one must also declare their liabilities and sources of income.
“Section 10 of the Parliamentary and Ministerial Code of Conduct requires that all public officials who are subject to the code of conduct must declare their assets and liabilities and their sources of income in order to be fully compliant with the provisions of sections 10(2) and 10(3) of the Parliamentary and Ministerial Code of conduct which provide as follows; (2) An Officer shall; (a) within thirty days after his appointment; and (b) within thirty days after each anniversary of his appointment to the office concerned; submit to the Chief Justice an annual declaration of assets, liabilities, and income in accordance with this section,” she said.
“An annual declaration shall fairly state; (a) the value of the assets (other than personal and household effects) and liabilities of the Officer as at the declaration date; and (b) the total income of the Officer, together with his income from each source, for the twelve months preceding the declaration date. Merely declaring one’s assets is only partial compliance. You must also declare your liabilities and your sources of income. If you do not declare all three of these, you are automatically in breach of the code of conduct.
And when asked whether other office bearers have not fully declared their assets, liabilities and sources of income as required by the code of conduct, Kasonde answered in the affirmative.
“Correct and therefore they have not fully complied. You are only fully compliant if you do all three, assets, liabilities and sources of income. The reason it is so important to declare one’s liabilities and sources of income is so that we can determine whether the public official in question has a conflict of interest e.g. in terms of any public procurement, to determine whether a public official is in debt or bankrupt, and also to ensure that the public official is earning their income from legitimate sources. All three of these requirements are in place to stop corruption and other abuses of public office. It is in the public’s interest to have full disclosure of the public official’s financial position throughout their stay in office for the sake of transparency and accountability. That is the price of assuming public office,” said Kasonde.