The Parliamentary Committee on Local Government on Tuesday learnt how the Kitwe City Council (LCC) paid K1.2 million into a personal account of an employee at government valuation department who was engaged by the council to undertake evaluations.
The committee, which was chaired by Ikelengi UPND member of parliament Elijah Muchima, argued that the amount should have been paid to the surveyor general’s office and not to an individual.
But the local authority wondered why the payment was questionable when it was merely adhering to the conditions of the quotation from the government valuation department.
In its written response to the committee, the KCC led by Kitwe town Clerk Eng Bornwell Luanga stated that the quotations for payment were received with respective instructions of how the payments were to be paid.
“We wish to advise that our payment of Valuation Fees into a personal account who is an employee of the Government Valuation Department was as advised by the Government Valuation Department who in their letter of quotation for the preparation of the 2014 Main Valuation Roll and indicated in paragraph 1 that ‘it will cost K1, 200, 000 to prepare a new valuation roll for the council, payable in instalments to the Appointed Valuation Surveyor as per Section 3 (5) of the Rating Act CAP 192.’ The fee was the lowest bargain amount for approximately 50, 000 properties including mining companies,” said Eng Luanga.
“The council wonders why this payment should be questionable as it was merely adhering to the conditions of the quotation from the Government Valuation Department. The person in question was the Appointed Valuation Surveyor approved by the Hon Minister of Local Government and Housing vide appointment letter Ref No. MLGH/101/27/25 dated 27th October 2014. Further, the council was merely a beneficiary of the service provided and could not take control of the administrative arrangements in terms of who received the payment. When the quotations were received, they came with respective instructions of how the payments were to be paid which we complied.”
Eng Luanga also stated that the council was of the view that the Government Valuation Department was the one to be audited for their administrative arrangements than extending the matter to the local authority which was only a beneficiary of the service.
When the matter came up before the named committee, the committee insisted that the council was wrong by paying the money to a messenger’s account.
“We are not saying that you paid it wrongly, but you paid it to the wrong person. It was the surveyor general’s office. Even if you have those internal arrangements, you should have paid the surveyor general, maybe the surveyor general could have dealt with these nitty-gritty issues himself other than yourself at your end. Tomorrow they might accuse you that you paid this person so that you can share the money. That was the messenger of the surveyor general,” Muchima said.
In response, Eng Luanga pleaded with the committee and the office of the Auditor General to help the local authority ensure that the money be paid into the Government Valuation Department account.
“Chair we would request through your committee or indeed the Auditor General’s Office because, as I indicated in my report, we were receiving a service. So you committee chair and the Auditor General would help us that this money be paid into the Government Valuation Department so that they can deal with the administrative issues,” Eng Luanga pleaded.
And Muchima insisted that there was something wrong with the entire payment process which motivated the Auditor General’s Office to write about it.
“This document is in public domain, the Secretary to the Treasury is coming, the permanent secretary or whoever from local government are coming. They have got this document, it is already in their hands and for the auditor general to claim it, it means that there is something wrong with it. Did he come in his personal capacity? How did you receipt the money? K1.2 million, you just use it for an acquittal? Anyway, we shall wait and hear how that money was accounted for. Otherwise this is another dead issue,” asked Muchima.
Muchima then instructed the Clerk with his team to take action and correct the situation.