The Auditor General’s report on Local Authorities for the years ended December 31, 2014 to 2016 has revealed that of 39 audited councils, seven did not have strategic plans, raising questions on whether they have a sense of direction.

And the Auditor General has revealed that local authorities owe ZRA K411,597,888.

Announcing the release of the audit which can be accessed at the Office of the Auditor General in Longacres or at in a statement, Wednesday, Public Relations head Ellen Chikale stated that the report revealed poor financial and performance management.

“The Report on the audit of Local Authorities for the financial years ended 31st December 2014 to 2016 is out with an overall tone of poor financial and performance management. The Report contains paragraphs on thirty five (35) councils and the major audit findings are that contrary to Section 52 of the Local Government Act twelve (12) Councils did not prepare financial statements for the period under review. Further, the Report shows that of the thirty nine (39) councils audited seven (7) councils did not have Strategic Plans in place thereby casting aspersions as to whether these councils have a sense of direction which guides their day to day decisions as well as evaluate their progress,” Chikale stated.

“It was also observed that councils own various assets, however, twenty two (22) councils did not have title deeds for their properties. This entails that in case of anything proof of ownership cannot be demonstrated.”

And Chikale stated that the local authorities had also been cited for non remittance of statutory obligations.

“Other issues contained in the report include non-remittance of statutory contributions to the National Pension Scheme Authority (NAPSA), Local Authorities Superannuation Fund (LASF) and Pay As You Earn (PAYE) to the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) of K411,597,888, Failure to pay staff obligations K225,811,615, unapproved payments of K254,668, unaccounted for stores of K18,467,255, questionable payments of K1,670,673 and misapplication of the Equalisation Fund of K14,913,913 among others,” she stated.

She stated that as a key factor in socio-economic development, it was hoped that local authorities could address their operational and financial challenges in order to deliver quality services to the people.

“The public may wish to know that Local Authorities are a key factor in socio-economic development because their operations are directly linked to community activities. As such an effective monitoring mechanism of their operations is critical in ensuring prudent financial management for sustainable economic and social development in the country. The Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Act No. 2 of 2016 devolves powers to the Local Authorities (LA) in the quest to decentralize the operations of Government as all the Government departments and institutions will now be managed at the local authority level. This therefore, entails that there should be greater accountability on the part of the local authorities as they will now be responsible for a lot of government resources for onward service delivery to the general citizenry,” stated Chikale.

“It is our considered hope the audit findings on the local authorities which have highlighted governance, operational and financial matters will be addressed in order for the Councils to provide quality service delivery and development in their respective communities.”