Ministry of Transport and Communications controlling officers on Wednesday failed to produce minutes for a RTSA board meeting which took place between some board members and the minister.

The Auditor General’s report on accounts of parastatal bodies for the year ended 31st December 2016 revealed that amounts totaling K4, 009, 331 were spent on allowances and expenses for 17 RTSA board meetings against a budget of K1, 971, 250 in 2015 alone.

When the matter came up before the Parliamentary Committee on Parastatal bodies on Wednesday, the committee demanded to see minutes of the meeting as proof that they took place.

“Section 4 (2) of the Road Traffic Act of 2002 stipulates that ‘the Agency shall meet for the transaction of business at least once every three (3) months at such places and times as the Chairperson may determine.’ In 2015, amounts totaling K4,009,331 were spent on allowances and expenses for seventeen (17) meetings held by board against a budget of K1,971,250 resulting in an over expenditure of K2,038,081. Further, there were no acquittal sheets for board allowances paid out during the period under review in amounts totaling K1,504,305,” read the AG report under review.

The Auditor General’s report also observed that amounts totaling K228,855 were paid as allowances to board members for activities such as road markings and meeting the minister when the board conditions for members did not cover such expenses.

Committee member Moono Lubezhi was the first to demand supporting documents for the meetings that took place.

“On 27th October 2016, you paid a board allowance for a meeting with the minister to Mara Mirriam to the expense of K8, 400. Are you able to avail this committee the regulation which gave you powers to spend such an amount when somebody is meeting the minister? And in your justification, are you able to avail the minutes because the definitely, the meeting was official…there must be minutes for this committee to prove that indeed this meeting took place. In the same vein, just like on 31st December 2016, there was a payment logistic for board chair during festival patrols to the extent of K17, 155. Will the PS avail if at all there is such a regulation that allows such an amount to be paid to a board chair when going for these festival patrols?” Lubezhi asked.

In his response, Ministry of Transport and Communications Permanent Secretary Misheck Lungu could not produce the document and further said there were no acquittal sheets to justify the allowances paid to the members.

“There were no acquittal sheets for the allowances paid during the period under review. Expenditure on board meetings was K1, 504, 305 which was within…There were also payments made to board members during the remembrance day for our brothers and sisters that have died in accidents. And this activity is one of the activities that we put in place to sensitize the travelling public to know that as they drive, there is a danger. We have lost so many numbers and if you notice on that day, we usually give statements with statistics on the number of people we have lost. So it’s a sensitization which we conduct when a new board comes in place, when a new minister comes in place, to familiarize with the place. So those meetings which call for the board member to be in attendance calls that a board member be compensated in accordance with the conditions that are outlined,” Lungu said.

Committee Chairperson Peter Daka also wondered why the agency wanted to implicate a cashier who was only sent to pay allowances amounting to K40, 000 to board members when he was not the recipient of the money.

“There was a case of a Mr Nyambe having been paid K40, 000. This Mr Nyambe is just a cashier, carrying money to go and give board members after the activity and I am sure the acquittal sheets for anyone who received money, the acquittal sheet is available. Why do you want to implicate this person? Why did you allow his name to keep appearing in the audit querry when you know that he was just sent to deliver the money for board members? Are you trying to implicate this poor cashier?” Daka asked.

Another committee member Mulowa Mukumbuta followed up with a question on supporting documents for the meetings held.

“My question was why should you be paid for attending a national prayer? And I was asking for supporting documents,” Mukumbuta asked.

Lungu then defended himself by telling the committee that the agency was working towards reducing the number of board meetings in the near future.

“Chair, I think I have to make known the current regulation (which) is to reduce board meetings, board interactions to at least a minimum of four per year. Because the board is supposed to meet every quarter. We can have a minimum of two extraordinary meetings…,” he responded.

But Lubezhi insisted on seeing the minutes for the meeting that took place.

“I will still go back to this board chairperson who was paid an allowance for having a meeting with the minister in 2016. Can the PS avail us with the minutes because for a board chair to have a meeting with the minister, then it means it was an official meeting? It was not just a matter of good morning minister, okay. Kindly avail us minutes on this board chairperson who was paid money for a meeting with the minister,” Lubezhi repeated her demand.

Other committee members like Anthony Kasandwe, Mumbi Phiri, Douglas Syakalima and Gift Chiyalika backed Lubezhi’s demand for proof that board members who were paid allowances did attend the meetings as claimed.

But Lungu could not present the minutes and invitation letters.