Transparency International Zambia says it is annoying that amounts of revenue lost through avoidable mischief has skyrocketed within a year.

Reacting to the Auditor General’s report for the year ended 2016, TIZ executive director Wesley Chibamba observed that lack of action by law enforcement agencies was perpetuating theft in public institutions.

“Transparency International Zambia is appalled at the impunity with which public institutions are pilfering public resources. Every year public resources are being lost due to bad stewardship by those charged with managing public resources. Year in year out we are urging the government to be more responsible and safe guard tax payers money. But, as if to spit on those calling for accountability, that is when they are losing more money to avoidable mischiefs,” Chibamba stated.

“It is very annoying that every year we are losing money in form of unaccounted for revenue, misapplication of funds, unretired imprest, unaccounted for stores, misappropriation, etc. These are things that are avoidable. We talk about them every year. For the 2015 audit report, we were advocating for the arrest of those controlling officers and individuals cited in the Auditor General’s report,, we did not see any such arrests if at all there were any. And they say ‘we are a listening government’. Now the amounts of lost revenue to these mischiefs has increased in certain instances by over 500%.”

He stated that the percentages representing increase in anomalies were abnormal.

“The report has highlighted Unaccounted for Revenue which has increased from K558,499 in 2015 to K3,700,509 in 2016, representing an increase in unaccounted for revenue of 562%. This is not normal. Misapplication of Funds has increased from K28,153,997 in 2015 to K162,095,699 in 2016, representing an increase of 475% in misapplication of funds. Even if this is not outright theft, it means approved budgets were not adhered to and also creates opportunities for pilferage. This is diversion of funds,” Chibamba stated.

“Unaccounted for Funds have increased from K193, 910 in 2015 to K386, 834 in 2016, representing an increase of 99.5%. How is it possible that funds which go through approval channels cannot be accounted for. Unretired Accountable Imprest, the usual story, increased from K12,659,892 in 2015 to K17, 559,399 in 2016, representing an increase of 39%, K 4, 899, 507. Unaccounted for stores increased from K13,460,323 in 2015 to K14,428,573 in 2016 among others.”

He warned that the diversion of funds from intended purposes was criminal.

“For issues like misapplication of funds, others may argue that it only requires administrative action because it is not outright theft but failure to follow budgetary provisions. Whatever name we want to give it, it is diversion of funds from intended purposes and it is criminal in its own right,” Chibamba stated.

“Now the major issue of concern is misappropriation of funds which is a polite way of describing theft by public servant. The amount of public funds that public officers stole or misappropriated in 2016 amounts to three million six hundred and eighteen, one hundred and twenty seven Kwacha (K 3, 618,127). This is somewhat interesting because it seems according to available reports, there was no misappropriation 2015 which is highly unlikely, but that’s what the report says anyway. But compared to 2014, the amount of money stolen in 2014 was four thousand seven hundred and sixty seven kwacha (K 4, 767). In 2016 they stole K 3,618, 127, representing an increase of over 75, 899 % from 2014.”

And Chibamba stated that those involved in misappropriation and theft of public resources deserved to be fired, arrested and have their properties seized.

“Honestly, is there any well-meaning Zambian who would condone this kind pilferage of tax payer’s money? This is demonstrating high levels of irresponsibility among those charged with presiding over public affairs and in particular, public resources. Misappropriation of funds should not require an investigation as the law enforcement agencies like to tell us. Misappropriation is theft and requires the culprits to be fired, arrested and seizure of their properties/assets effected, pending forfeiture to the state after exhaustion of legal processes,” stated Chibamba.

“So, if this government is serious about accountability, we expect arrests to be effected within the month, for those cited on misappropriation of public funds. Time for playing games with the Zambian people is over, we expect nothing less than arrests and recovery of stolen resources as affirmative action from government through Law Enforcement Agencies. In fact, we are putting it as a challenge to Law Enforcement Agency heads and their appointing authorities.”