TRANSPARENCY International Zambia (TIZ) and ActionAid have called on the line Ministries responsible for parastatals found wanting in the Auditor General’s report to fire all chief executive officers to send a strong signal to would-be offenders to desist from abusing public funds.

And the organisations say they will directly engage the relevant line Ministries to put a stop to the continued abuse of public resources.

In a statement, Wednesday, TI-Z executive director Maurice Nyambe and ActionAid country director Nalucha Ziba urged responsible line Ministries to dismiss all parastatal chief executive officers, whose companies were cited in the Auditor General’s reports, to ensure that those found wanting were prosecuted and dealt with in line with the Public Finance Management Act of 2018.

“It is our considered view as TI-Z and ActionAid that the time has come for us, as a country, to put a stop to the recurring irregularities revealed in the Auditor General’s reports. We would, therefore, like to demand that the respective line ministries under which the different parastatals whose irregularities have been highlighted fall, take immediate action to investigate the circumstances under which the anomalies occurred, and that the culprits be made to account for their actions. In this vein, we demand that all chief executive officers of erring parastatals be relieved of their responsibilities in order to send a strong signal that such blatant disregard of principles of sound financial management will not be tolerated in any way, shape or form. We are convinced that it is only by taking such punitive visible actions against the culprits that such irregularities will start to reduce. As it is, now, culprits repeatedly commit these offences and see no action taken against them, so they continue with impunity and the cycle goes on, making a mockery of the work of the Auditor General in highlighting all these anomalies. We further call for all the culprits to be prosecuted for abuse of office and resources in line with the provisions of the Public Finance Management Act of 2018,” they stated.

“As TI-Z and ActionAid, we are both horrified by these revelations, which undoubtedly show a blatant disregard, not just for principles of good public finance management, but also for different provisions of the law. We have observed that over the years, the Auditor General’s reports have continued to reveal such blatant examples of mismanagement of public resources, and yet the practice appears to be getting worse. We are concerned that the continuation of these anomalies seemingly unabetted is costing Zambia billions of kwacha the country can ill-afford to lose, while social service provision continues to be poor. In addition to this, the country’s image, both domestically and internationally, has continued to take a battering as a result of our apparent failure to put a stop to financial management irregularities that are revealed in the Auditor General’s reports on a regular basis. It is also not lost on us that there have long been suspicions of high levels of political influence in the running of most of these parastatal institutions, and this, coupled with poor involvement of oversight bodies such as Parliament in the operations of these parastatals, has created a fertile breeding ground for such irregularities to not only occur, but to also take root.”

The organisations stated that parastatals needed to be examples of good governance and financial management as opposed to them being found wanting in every Auditor General’s report.

“TI-Z and ActionAid would, therefore, like to condemn in the strongest possible terms the continued mismanagement of public funds by parastatal bodies, who keep flouting financial management regulations seemingly with impunity. It is our contention that parastatals, being government-owned should be among the best examples of adherence to the law and to the principles of good financial management, and the fact that they are not places an indelible stain on government’s professed commitment to address corruption and promote accountability and transparency in the management of public resources. We also call upon respective line Ministries to ensure that all parastatals have credible and functioning boards that are comprised of professionals rather than boards packed with cadres for purposes of political expediency! We urge government to work closely with the Institute of Directors in this regard to facilitate improvements in the performance of parastatal boards,” they urged.

They asked government to redefine the manner in which resources were invested in the agricultural sector.

“For the agricultural sector in particular, we call on government to redefine the manner in which resources are being invested in the sector as the current scenario where huge amounts are investment towards FRA (Food Reserve Agency) as opposite extension services and research continues promoting food insecurity in the country due to low rates of investment increases the potential for mismanagement of financial resources by FRA,” they stated.

And the organisations pledged that they would directly engage respective line Ministries to put a stop to the anomalies once and for all.

“As TI-Z and ActionAid, we have taken keen interest in the revelations from the Auditor General’s reports, and we will incorporate in our activities public sensitisation to enable the Zambian citizenry know how their resources are being abused, seemingly with impunity and how this ultimately affects their livelihoods. In addition to this, we will also seek direct engagements with respective line Ministries, not only to remind them of their obligation to address these concerns, but also to mutually seek solutions that will put a stop to these anomalies once and for all. We believe that it is in the interest of all well-meaning Zambians that such anomalies be eliminated in order for the country to have the full purse of resources at its disposal for the advancement of its development prospects,” stated the organisations.

The Auditor General’s Report on the Accounts of Parastatal Bodies and other statutory institutions for the financial year ended December 31, 2018, revealed that the Patents and Companies Registration Agency (PACRA) spent over K14 million on payment of personal emoluments, which was originally meant for construction of an office block.

It cited several other examples of irregularities and fraud, such as how the Lusaka South Multi-Facility Economic Zone Limited (LS-MFEZ) allocated fuel worth K105,478 to a non-runner vehicle.