After weeks of dealing with lying controlling officers, the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee finally saluted accountability levels at the Ministry of Mines.
And ministry permanent secretary Paul Chanda appealed to PAC to help him engage the Treasury on speedy release of funds meant for the sector.
This was when Chanda appeared before the committee to respond to audit queries cited in the 2016 Auditor General’s report.
PAC member Mwansa Mbulakulima was ecstatic about how the PS responded to most of the questions and commended the ministry for the respect it showed to the controllers.
“I think it is the only ministry that I have seen that has got respect to controllers. I hope this spirit should continue,” said Mbulakulima.
And PAC deputy chairperson Brenda Tambatamba noted that the ministry was lucky to be commended by the committee.
Immediately after commendations, however, the committee noted that the ministry did not attach appendix number two to the document it submitted to the auditors.
This was a document that was supposed to respond to the non collection of revenue from some mining companies.
Senga Hill member of parliament Kapembwa Simbao was the first one to note the omission of the document on appendix two.
In response to that, PS Chanda joked that he did not want to burden the committee with a huge document and that the ministry was also struggling with stationary but later produced it.
“Honorable to be honest we thought maybe were going to burden this committee with a huge document and of course at the moment we are struggling with paper, and cash so…!” responded Chanda.
But Lukasha constituency member of parliament Mwenya Munkonge urged the PS to admit his shortcomings and to always check his documents properly before submitting.
“I think the oversight is on their part. It is not really on the paper. There is appendix two here but it just doesn’t have anything to do with the issue at hand. It has got a fuel analysis attached to it and not the issue at hand. So I think we should just admit our shortcomings perhaps that is the way forward. We should check the information that we give each other and it is not even in the correct sequence, its going from appendix two to appendix five, already there is that filing disorder because if it had been in correct order, perhaps somebody would have already seen that the information is not relating to the document given to us,” Munkonge advised.
Tambatamba also chipped in, saying it was clear that the PS had not attached great importance to his task.
“PS we have got a problem here. Clearly the members are not happy in the sense that you have not attached any importance to this task at all. In the first place this documentation was supposed to go to the AG. Some of the documentation that you were pointing to in your submission were coming late and we have got evidence here where you have actually tried to mislead this committee by putting different appendix yet you know that you are keeping the right documentation. We are very unhappy with this. You do not attach importance to a matter which the Zambian public want to hear and understand why and what is happening in the sector. When we talk about production return, that is an area where the bread and butter come from and everyone pays attention to this sector. And here we are. When will you be serious with audits? It is not the first time PS that you are having to deal with an audit. You are an experienced civil servant,” Tambatamba said.
In response, Chanda admitted the mistake and assured the committee that the mistake would not recur.
‘We can promise you chair that this thing will never occur again, we will be in control and we will make sure that no misapplication takes place again,” responded Chanda.
Chanda asked PAC to help him deal with the delays by the Treasury to release funds meant for the ministry.
He further requested the committee to summon his counterpart in charge of budgets so that she could explain why she had been tricking him in terms of fund release.
“We have a work plan amongst ourselves the directors, their chiefs and their senior officers and of course the accompanying budget. We are always writing to the Treasury. I am happy that the Accountant General is here. I think honorable chairperson you can help us to deal with the Treasury so that these monies, especially for us in mining, are consistent with the season and at the time we want this money. We work according to the season, we work according to the availability of staff, we work according to the mining schedule sometimes because you can’t go and disturb them. You always have to give them enough notice to say we are coming this month so we want the following to be in place. But the monies don’t come like that from the Treasury. I think chair, one day, the PS budget should be brought here also to explain why she tricks us like this,” Chanda requested.
And acting Auditor General Roy Mwambwa emphasized on the need for controlling officers to always submit all the necessary documents at the time of the audits saying that it was difficult for him to verify new documents at gun point.
“Just to emphasize to the controlling officer, you have noted that the responses you gave us was dated 6th October 2017. This was way after we had completed the report. Now if we do things like this, it will not help us because you will find that you will keep on appearing if you respond like this, the response to the queries on paragraph 25. It was done on 6th October 2017. By this time, the report was already done. Now even if you want me to verify this I would not. So all I am trying to say is that let us try to keep the time frame which we are given because if you respond like this, you will find that you will still appear and I will not be able to verify it,” said Mwambwa.