The Office of the Auditor General says the Daily Nation published misleading information about the auditing of Zambia’s foreign missions in their Tuesday edition.

In a statement issued by Office of the Auditor General (OAG) public relations manager Ellen Chikale yesterday, the OAG clarified that it would only spend K1,400,000 for auditing foreign missions as opposed to K2,000,000 as claimed in a Daily Nation story headlined ‘Auditor General Shocker’.

And Chikale stated that the Washington DC and New York missions were not even part of the 12 missions to be audited this year due to lack of funds.

“We have learnt of the misleading information in the above captioned article and editorial comment entitled Auditing the Auditors. We are sure that bringing the facts to your attention as media houses and that of the general public we can resolve this matter quickly. In the article, the author alleges abuse of funds in the audit of foreign missions and recruitment of staff, and we wish to respond as follows: 1. Allegation 1 – Abuse of funds in the audit of foreign missions K2,000,000. a. The Office of the Auditor General (OAG) will spend K1,400,000 in air tickets and Allowances for the audit of foreign missions whose expenditure for the financial year ended 31st December 2017 was K631,131,048. The Office expenditure of K1,400,000 represents 0.2% of the Missions’ expenditure to be audited, notwithstanding the fact that the auditors will also audit the financial year 2016 which was not audited last year due to limitation of funds,” read the statement.

“The mandate of the OAG is to audit all public finances, both revenue and expenditure for all public institutions including private institutions that receive government subvention. As such Zambian Missions Abroad are not exempt from being audited. Every year the OAG budgets for audits inclusive of missions. The audit of Missions activity is within the approved budget by Parliament of audit activities of the Office of the Auditor General. The public may wish to know that Zambia has thirty eight (38) foreign missions out of which only twelve (12) missions will be audited in 2018 due to limited funds.”

And Chikale stated that Zambia’s missions in the United States were not part of those to be audited this year as indicated in the Daily Nation.

“b. The rates of Allowances payable to officers for foreign travel are as per approved government rates and are part of the conditions of service. Prior to undertaking any foreign trip by any officer from the OAG, Authority to Travel Abroad is obtained from Cabinet Office. Further, Procurement of air tickets are competitively sourced as per procurement guidelines under the Public Procurement Act. The misconception that air tickets were procured at exorbitant prices are unfounded as any connection flights attracts additional costs. 2. Allegation 2: The Audit of Washington DC and New York Missions at a cost K231, 341,000. The position is that Washington DC and New York missions are not part of those to be audited this year,” Chikale stated.

“3. Allegation 3: Recruitment of new staff K140, 000. The OAG is a public office with its staff recruited through the Civil Service Commission. The recent recruitment was done with the Civil Service Commission, Public Service Management Division and the OAG following the granting of Treasury Authority by the Ministry of Finance and was in line with the 2018 approved budget. 4. Allegation 4: The Office of the Auditor General has motor vehicles with private number plates.
From the 1980s, the OAG’s motor vehicles have had private number plates due to the nature of its operations and are accounted for under the Ministry of Works of Supply. The management of the fleet is in line with Government guidelines.”

Chikale advised journalists to countercheck facts before publishing stories.

“From the foregoing, it is clear that had the author of the article bothered to check the facts with the Office (which we believe is good journalism practice) all the relevant information could have been provided. We wish to appeal to all media houses to confirm the facts of their articles before publication to avoid misleading members of the public. In conclusion, we wish to assure the members of the public that there is no abuse of public funds in the Office of the Auditor General. The Office stands on the principle of transparency and accountability, for this reason the Office is annually audited by a private audit firm and the report is a public document,” stated Chikale.