In this audio, Finance Minister Felix Mutati says it is regrettable that there are some clever Zambians in government whose DNA is to waste public resources meant for the poor.
And Mutati says it is embarrassing to note that 50 per cent of the financial mismanagement cited in the 2016 Auditor General’s report involves officers from the Ministry of General Education.
Speaking during the launch of the Public Expenditure and Assessment report in Lusaka today, Mutati observed that public officers had continued to squander donor funds.
“Even as we read the Auditor General’s report for 2016, the narrative is constant. The narrative of misuse, misappropriation, wastage of expenditure. Whilst we are trying to do the reforms in order to deliver effective services, there is a ransom for those of us whose constitution is to work against the efforts that we make. It’s very embarrassing to see that in the Auditor General’s report, 50 per cent of a disease that was highlighted in that report is in the ministry of general education. How can you have a solid foundation of education as a path to future prosperity when you are counting financial mismanagement in that key ministry? I know accountant general (present at the launch) that you have suspended four accountants at education and at finance. That is only the beginning, we must do more in order to address the situation,” Mutati said.
“It a lot more embarrassing for cooperating partners that they continue to give us resource and this resource which is supposed to help the poor particularly in the social sector is wasted, just two to three days ago we got a cheque from the Germany government, supporting us in sanitation. Yet, clever Zambians whose DNA is to perfect the research in how they can consume that resource that is meant for the poor because they are allergic to deliver. So when they get to their offices everyday, there main purpose is how can we reverse policy? So unless we begin to address these issues aggressively, the [Auditor General’s] report will just be in the shelves.”
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The minister further accused government officers of not serving the interests of the Zambian people.
“We take this particular issue very seriously and I see controlling officers all of them from government, the controlling officers who are charged with the responsibility to ensure the resource is properly used and yet our biggest weakness is budget execution, Whilst we are remaining within the framework of the expenditure in total, when you see the quantity of that expenditure, its lopsided, and these are effective, educated controlling officers, some of them with PHDs, we have to find an answer now,” said Muatati.
He said there was need for government to fight the wastage of public resources with aggression.
“We met last year and we all agreed that the bedrock of transparency was key to undertaking any transformable efforts in public expenditure management. Today we have got a report that has outlined a number of areas that do not only require attention but require to be addressed in a very aggressive manner. Of critical concern is how do we arrest the disease surrounding commitment controls? In particular as they impact on the accumulation of arrears. The other thing is how do we deal with the financing component in particular public investment? The management of investments and liabilities, the creation of value for money as a critical deal and so on which we must also address,” he said.
“So implementation is critical, we need to know the disease perhaps it is easier to carry out an assessment because it’s only after you have known the disease that you can be able to prescribe the correct medicine. Reading this report has told us that a cure must be found. The question now is how do we have an effective, efficient public service delivery that translates in creating jobs, growing the economy and reducing poverty? Difficult as things are, the answer to our problems lies within ourselves, the cooperating partners are important including IMF but at the end of the day the responsibility to take prudent and effective decisions lies with the people of Zambia. We are the ones that can decide the path for our destiny, no body else is going to define that path for our destiny.”
And World Bank Country Manager Ina-Marlene Ruthenberg encouraged government to address the challenge of public finance management by putting relevant interventions in place.
“There are several bills that are going forward; the Public Finance and Planning budget bill,that the minister just announced that it was taken to parliament yesterday is a critical bill. Another bill that is forth coming is procurement, so there is a whole sort of bills that are under preparation that will implement this agenda, so I think the government is on the right track. But then yes you may have bills and laws but then you need to implement them because having laws and bills is one thing while implementing them is another. Coming up with bills has been one of Zambia’s speeches you know but implementation and sticking to that which has been implemented is very critical” said Ruthenberg.