The Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday sent away Lusaka Province permanent secretary Charles Sipanje to pave way for investigations of theft.
This was after Sipanje failed to reconcile receipts which he had signed when he appeared before PAC to respond to audit queries raised in the 2016 Auditor General’s report.
It was revealed that that accountable imprest totaling K13,000 which was issued to four officers to undertake various activities had not been retired as at July 31, 2017 whilst some officers spent K75, 293 on procurement of stationery, motor vehicle parts, among other things whose value could not be ascertained on the market.
Mkushi North PF member of parliament Doreen Mwape wondered if he had checked every document before signing but Sipanje said he had not gone through every receipt as he assumed they had already been checked.
“Yes I went through but what I could have not gone through is [things] like additions on each and every receipt. Because when you are given a report, you assume they have been checked. I couldn’t have checked each and every receipt I had, to say this is not balancing and all that. Especially that most of these are copies unless I look at the originals,” Sipanje said.
However, PAC chairperson Howard Kunda reminded Sipanje that the documents now belonged to him because he signed them.
Kunda’s colleague, Nkana PF member of parliament Alexander Chiteme observed that it was unfortunate that politicians were being accused of abusing public resources when it was civil servants in the forefront.
“Chair, I am now getting more worried having initially recommended the funding to this ministry. You can see the total abuse of resources allocated to this ministry. This is falling on the bucks of us politicians when we are told that we wasting government’s resources. We are being called all sorts of names out there when it is the civil service that is doing and perpetuating such horrible crimes. I want a very serious explanation on this. We have invoices that are not matching, we have seen a lot of things that are not right in this file and if we continue with that I think it will be a disservice to the people of the republic. Chair, it is only my opinion that we refer this file back to the Auditor General’s office,” Chiteme said.
After a five-minute break, Kunda told Sipanje that the session could not continue as the committee had decided to investigate a clear case of theft.
“There has been a decision that has been reached in that we need to investigate on these issues especially that we have seen so many issues concerning the receipts that have not been cleared. You need to use your powers because people are doing things without any regard. They know that even if I don’t retire, the PS will go to the committee, talk and it will end there. People are giving themselves loans. I think we need to crack a whip because it is a trend in the civil service. It is becoming a culture for people to do things with impunity, not following the laid down rules. They know that they will go scot free because the PS is not going to do anything about it, they will just recover. But this time around we are not going to go as business as usual. We want these things now to change,” Kunda said.
He warned that all controlling officers who were not ensuring prudent use of resources would be surcharged.
“Having said that, all the controlling officers who are not putting effort to ensure that public funds are protected and public funds are extended towards the intended purpose, those who are not doing their job as expected, this committee is recommending for surcharge to those controlling officers who are not performing their duties as expected. So we would want to see a change from you PS, yes bearing in mind that you have tried to bring down these issues but they are still there. We want to ensure that PS’ are working as expected so you will not be removed from the list of those who will be surcharged even in future if you do not work on these things. This issue is going to be revisited this year so that we can put these things to rest. We cannot have a situation where public funds are being misused because to us after seeing these receipts, it is clearly showing to us that there is theft here. We need to ensure that this is revisited and appropriate action will be taken,” said Kunda.