Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) director general Kapetwa Phiri says ministers have contributed to the commission’s inability to carry out investigations successfully because controlling officers are hesitant to release information due to fear of being fired.
And Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chairperson Howard Kunda says the weak and long procedure of instituting disciplinary action on officers who flout financial regulations with impunity, has contributed to the rise in the number of queries in the Auditor General’s report.
Speaking at a seminar for ministers and controlling officers on financial management at the Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka, Wednesday, Phiri said the Commission had noted some invisible influence from ministers on controlling officers, dictating on how the handle financial mismanagement.
“We have had an opportunity to drastically reduce financial irregularities, for we have put in place adequate laws and systems that can help officials to do the right thing at all time. These laws include; provisions of the constitutions such as national values and principles, the Public Finance Act, Zambia Public Procurement Act, the Anti Corruption Act and internal audit systems. However, these laws are being abrogated by controlling officers and this usually poses a challenge on the Commission. Sometimes controlling officers do not cooperate to ensure that witnesses are made available. They also don’t provide timely information when they are requested to,” Phiri observed.
“We have also noted some invisible influence of ministers on controlling officers to either take action or not to take action. Sometimes minsters do threaten controlling officers with transfers, demotions and even dismissal. So I think this has contributed to lack of action or delay in taking action on the part of controlling officers even where recommendations have been made for administrative action. I want to state here that this is wrong and it is in contravention of section 8 of the ACC act. We also know that there are threats on whistleblowers by controlling officers. But the fight against corruption needs the support of ministers and controlling officers. If this happened, it would culminate in prudent application of financial resource for the intended purpose and for the benefit of all Zambians. But the question still remains, can corruption be eliminated in Zambia?,” wondered Phiri.
Meanwhile, Kunda who is PAC Chairperson observed that long disciplinary procedures for officers who flout financial regulations have contributed to the continued rise in the number of queries in the Auditor General’s report.
“There are a number of challenges that contribute to the continued rise in the number of queries in the Auditor General’s report. Some of the challenges have resulted in irregularities in the management of public resources. The weak and long procedure of instituting disciplinary action to erring officers and lack of understanding and appreciation of the financial legal regime by most controlling officers, coupled with poor and weak remedial actions on officers who flout financial regulations with impunity, has contributed to the continued rise in the number of queries inn the Auditor General’s report,” said Kunda.
“Most controlling officers attach no importance to the audit process and in most instances, they are reactive rather than being proactive. Had controlling officers been proactive, a number of cases contained in the Auditor General’s report would ordinarily be resolved at audit process and not at PAC meetings.”