Accountability of public expenditure has remained a significant concern in Zambia, the Policy Monitoring and Research Centre (PMRC) has observed.

In a research conducted by PMRC’s head of research and analysis Salim Kaunda, among other contributors, on public expenditure, using information published in the Auditor General’s reports from 2012 to 2017, it was noted that the misuse of public resources has remained a pressing concern over recent years in Zambia.

“The Report of the Auditor General on the Accounts of the Republic of Zambia for the financial year ended 31st December, 2017, has revealed a reduction in the misapplication of funds from K162 million in 2016 to K61 million in 2017. The Report, which was tabled on the Floor of the House on the 16th of October, 2018, however, revealed noticeable irregularities in the various Ministries, Provinces and other Spending Agencies (MPSAs). The misuse of public resources has been of a major concern in Zambia. In light of the country’s budget deficit and debt servicing, it is important to ensure that available resources are effectively utilized. This is, however, not the case in Zambia as the Auditor General’s Reports from 2012-2017, continuously record queries, which have been fluctuating over the years,” PMRC stated.

The research think-tank regretted that the Public Accounts Committee and the Auditor General’s office had still not been adequately empowered with authority to help Zambians hold their leaders accountable.

“Guidelines and legislation supporting the Auditor General’s and Public Accounts Committee are largely in place, however, these need to be effectively implemented and strengthened by the tightening of regulations and introduction of new mechanisms to monitor and ensure implementation of sanctions, changes and recommendations of the Public Accounts Committee in response to Auditor General’s Report findings. The improvement of relationships and integrations between key departments, as well as strong political will and support for such efforts will be essential in effecting changes. Recognition of the essential role of the Auditor General’s office and Public Accounts Committee, both by government and the general public is vital, and increased awareness of the systems in operation and use of public resources will empower Zambian citizens to hold the government accountable,” it stated.

And PMRC recommended a review of the guidelines surrounding the availability of information to improve society’s awareness on financial matters, public expenditure, and promote transparency and accountability for public officers.

“A review of guidelines surrounding the availability of information to the public needs to be undertaken. Wherever possible, documents should be freely available to the public, with access provided online and in hard copies both for personal use and in community centres. This will improve society’s awareness of financial matters and public expenditure, and promote greater transparency and accountability for public officers. Linkages with civil society should also be explored, in order to assist with the dissemination of information to the public in a comprehensible format,” stated PMRC.