The Parliamentary Public Accounts (PAC) committee has observed that the Ministry of General Education’s financial report is the worst that PAC has witnessed since it started sitting this year.
PAC committee member Teddy Kasonso said in responses to submissions made by Ministry of General Education Permanent Secretary Henry Tukombe following revelations from the Auditor General’s report for the year ended 2016.
In this particular sitting, it was revealed that the Ministry had applied amounts totalling K141,512,928 meant for the implementation of key programmes namely; Early Childhood Education, Primary Education and other support services on activities related to the intended purpose.
And Auditor General Ron Mwambwa also regretted that the Ministry of Education lacked discipline and that it had a tendency of failing to produce documents required at time of Audit.
“There is no doubt Chair that the Ministry of General Education’s financial report is the worst of all the reports that we have ever witnessed since we started sitting. As I said when we sat to look at the accounts of the Ministry of Health, we need radical thinking to deal with this Ministry and in dealing with the challenges, I don’t think that Kasonso asking one particular issue will resolve the challenges, we need radical change. And I know that radical thinking and a radical decision is very difficult to take because I also know that every option has got risks. However, there is one thing that continues to come up which is lack of discipline. PS we saw it at your Headquarters but now it has expanded through to today’s report where colleges are doing exactly what is obtaining at the headquarters of your ministry,” said Kasonso.
“Secondary schools have also fallen in doing the same thing that you are doing at headquarters. However, in your responses I have been listening quietly and they don’t give hope at all, there is no clear road map from you as the head in how you are going to deal with these challenges come next year. You see, your Ministry is the backbone of development in this nation and unless we get it right in most of the programmes that you are implementing, you are drawing Zambia’s development backwards. Here we are, the government of the Republic of Zambia is proving resources to your Ministry but the problem is that there is misuse here, failure to collect fees, delayed banking, failure to issue receipts and so on, these things seem to be very small but they are very critical when you come to the overall picture. So for me, I think let’s get it right at the Headquarters in terms of discipline otherwise this kind of behaviour will just continue.”
And Nkana member of parliament Alexander Chiteme implored the PS to take charge of cleaning up the mess that had been created at the ministry.
“PS, I also find it very difficult to pick out a single question because it seems like every line of expenditure which is in this Ministry has got a query but what is happening? Are we failing to take charge of the ministry? Do we have the proper capacities to take charge and clean up the ministry right from primary schools through to the head which is the ministry headquarters. You can see that most of the money that was meant for distribution of books, feeding programmes and educational programmes that were going to be so helpful to this country have either gone to the pockets of selfish individuals or have just been wasted,” said Chiteme.
Meanwhile, the Auditor General asked the PS to work with his team and ensure that the challenges that had been highlighted in the sitting were resolved.
“Chair, I want to put it on record because yesterday you remember we talked about the failure by the procurement unit at the ministry to produce documentations and we deliberated on this yesterday including contract management. It is the same thing that is happening here and the sad part is that these are donor funds actually. That is the observation that we have seen in the procurement unit at the Ministry of Education, failure to product documentations when its required on procurement contracts. So I hope this time around they have really changed, like they are saying because it will not be a good thing for us to go back there next year and find the same mistakes,” Mwambwa.
At this point, PAC Chairperson Howard Kunda invited the PS to address the complaints raised by members of parliament.
“PS, I have looked at your responses and we have seen from all your responses its just ‘we will recover, no we will do this’. But it is clear that these issues have got a clear element in them but we are just casually dealing with these issues. PS we want to see you taking the lead, taking the bull by its horns to ensure that this ministry is cleaned up. PS, it’s not just a matter of saying that no we will do this, we want to know how we can trust you. How are we going to be sure that tis ministry will give benefit at the end PS,” directed Kunda.
And in response, the PS said: “I agree Chair that we have quite a number of misfits at the ministry, you know liabilities are ever there but in moving forward, we have been chatting behind things that there is a lot that we have to do in terms of the Ministry of Education because its more less like we have gone into ICU stage but that stage is coming to pass because the criminality element and dishonest element is everywhere and about. So we are trying by all means to promote ourselves in terms the values in the ministry and also on how people perceive us when we are out there. I have also taken note of the points raised byHonourable Kasonso and taking into account that he has been PS before, I believe he knows what it takes to be PS and so I am taking his advice with the seriousness it deserves.”