Mwanakatwe rules out sabotage in Ministry of Finance computer malfunction

Commerce minister Margaret Mwanakatwe during the Zambia public and private dialogue in Lusaka-picture by Tenson Mkhala

Finance Minister Margaret Mwanakatwe has attributed the collapse in the central computing system of Integrated Financial Management Information Systems (IFMIS) to degeneration in the equipment hardware.

And Mwanakatwe has refuted allegations that government intentionally tempered with the central computing system in order to manipulate the country’s debt figures.

Updating Parliament yesterday on the collapse of the central computing system at the Ministry of Finance, Mwanakatwe said substantial progress had been made to restore the system.

“Mr Speaker, the IFMIS failed on Monday, 29th, January, 2018 at about 22:00 hours. Since then, the system has not been available for business use. The House may wish to note that the failure was not deliberate but the degeneration of the equipment hardware that resulted in data on the affected damaged portions being corrupted, thereby causing the system to fail. This is attributed to the old age of the equipment which has reached its end of useful life. As at the time of failure, government had already taken steps to replace the old equipment. The new equipment has already been installed and the process to migrate the system from the old equipment to the new hardware has already commenced,” Mwanakatwe said.

“The restoration has taken a bit of time because of the extent of damage on the equipment. When the failure occurred, immediate efforts to restore the system using backup data failed because it was discovered that the data for this same backup also contained some corrupted data. The damage to the equipment had taken place over a period of time. Further, efforts to restore the system using the Disaster Recovery (DR) site also failed because the data contained on the DR site was replicated with the corrupted data from the main system.”

Mwanakatwe said while a team of specialists was working on the restoration of the system, business processes at the ministry continued using manual operations.

“Mr Speaker, the House may wish to know that system reconstruction for the data recovery programme is being done by a combined team of GRZ project consultants, a joint venture comprising Nova base business solutions of Portugal and SEDO of Spain who are being contracted to implement the contract to plan, design and implement IFMIS system enhancement and interface processes. The team has been working round the clock to restore the system and substantial progress has been made with 95 per cent of the work having been completed. Tests to verify the proper functioning of the recovered component of the system are ongoing and have so far been positive. I would like to assure this August House Mr Speaker that most of the work to restore the system has been done and the system will be put back into operation in the shortest possible time within the month of March. In the meantime, business processes have continued using manual operations although at a slow service delivery,” Mwanatwe said.

Meanwhile, the minister refuted claims from Roan member of parliament Chishimba Kambwili who rose on follow up question, asking the minister to explain if it was true that government deliberately sabotaged the computing system in order to hide its debt from the IMF.

“I can categorically state here that there was no sabotage. This government does not forge the figures that we share with the IMF because they can get to the figures. So it’s pointless trying to forge figures. We know what the statement of account was as at 31st December, 2017 and those are the figures I shared with the nation just the other day. So Mr Speaker there was no intention at all of malpractice by this government,” she said.

Further Kantanshi member of parliament Anthony Mumba rose with a concern, asking the minister how credible the budget implementation was going to be looking at the challenges the ministry was facing as a result of the breakdown.

“Minister, my concern is that the purpose for the IFMIS system was to create credibility to our budget. Meaning that we are spending money on things that we planned for. Now with the system having crushed, I have noticed that government has gone back to the manual system of paying and raising purchase order, which not too long ago the accountant general said he was not going to accept. Owing to this challenge that we have, Honourable minister, could you assure the nation as to how credible our budget implementation is going to be; going by the challenges you have outlined?” Asked Mumba.

And in response, Mwanakatwe said: “I do agree with you that right now we have gone back to manual and I have said that by the end of March, 2018, we shall be back in proper space where manual is set aside, so we are quite confident that we are going to go back on a more robust system, [started] March on-wards,” said Mwanakatwe.

         

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