Government lost thousands of kwacha when its foreign mission in Geneva, Switzerland, paid rentals for apartments which had been vacated by recalled diplomats, the Auditor General has revealed.
And the Auditor General has revealed that former Zambian Ambassador to Belgium Grace Kabwe was paid K32,857 as a special advance on January 18, 2018 although she left the mission on January 7, 2018.
According to the Auditor General’s report for the financial year ended December 31, 2017, the mission paid K336,469 as rentals for a house which had been vacated by Zambia’s former ambassador to Switzerland.
“Payment of Rent for Vacated House – Villa Chemin De Mollies 29 Bellevue 1293. The Mission spent amounts totalling K336,469 (US$37,725.34) (CHF36,000) on rentals for the period from July to September 2017 for a house which had been vacated by the Ambassador who had been recalled. In addition, amounts totalling K70,619 (CHF6,600.62) (US$7,097.44) were spent on storage charges for Mission properties that were placed in storage. Payment of Rent for the Vacated House – Apartment No. 60 Route De La Satigny. In Paragraph 35 (f) of the Report of the Auditor General for the financial year ended 31st December 2014, mention was made on the wasteful expenditure which was as a result of continued payment of rentals for an apartment which was vacated in December 2014 by the First Secretary Trade following her recall from Foreign Service. As of March 2015, the Mission had paid amounts totalling K85,733 (CHF12,003) (US$12,247.50) for the period from January to March 2015,” read the report.
“A review of records, carried out in May 2018, revealed that the Mission did not give notice to vacate the apartment. Consequently, a total amount of K154,817 (CHF20,005) (US$20,715.71) was paid for rentals covering the period from April to August 2015. The new officer, First Secretary, Trade, who was posted to the Mission took occupation of the house in September 2015.
Further, a review of correspondence from the Ministry Headquarters dated 17th February 2016 revealed that the former Ambassador was charged K85,733 (CHF12,003) (US$12,247.50) paid for the vacated apartment for the period from January to March 2015. However, there was no evidence of a decision made on how the amounts totalling K154,817 (CHF20,005) (US$20,715.71) paid for the period from April to August, 2015 would be treated as the Ambassador had since been recalled and left the Mission in June, 2017.”
The Auditor General also revealed that the former ambassador had incurred some repair costs which were settled by the mission.
“At the time of her recall in June 2017, the former Ambassador was owing the Mission an amount of K37,999 (CHF3,900) (US$ 3,979.59) as salary advance and as at 31st July 2018, the advance had not been recovered. Payment for Repair Costs – Apartment No. 60 Route De La Satigny. Contrary to Foreign Service Regulation No. 108 which states that an officer occupying rented accommodation shall pay the total cost of repairs in case of damages caused to the property, amounts totalling K8,578 (CHF667.20) (US$702.32) were paid by the Mission in November 2015, to settle the cost for repair of the damages to the apartment No. 60 Route De La Satigny on behalf of the former First Secretary, Trade. As at 11th May 2018, there was no evidence that the amount owing had been recovered and reimbursed to the Mission,” read the report.
And the Auditor General revealed that Kabwe was paid K32,857 as a special advance on January 18, 2018 although she left the Brussels mission on January 7, 2018.
“The former Ambassador was owing amounts totalling K62,517 (€5,229.52) comprising 4th Quarter 2017 medical insurance K5,157 (€431.40) and damages to the Residence K57,359 (€4,798.12). In addition, on 18th January 2018, an amount of K32,857 (€2,700) was paid to the former Ambassador as a special advance although she had left the Mission on 7th January 2018,” read the report.
The report also revealed that the mission’s Second Secretary left a €40,000 unsettled loan with the local bank in Brussels at the time of her recall.
“On 15th December 2016, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs recalled the Second Secretary and directed her to return to Zambia not later than 15th March 2017. However, it was observed that at the time of her return to Zambia, the officer was owing a local bank an amount of €40,000 arising from a loan she obtained from the bank. A scrutiny of records revealed that the matter of settling the outstanding amount of €40,000 had been presented to Ministry of Finance by Ministry of Foreign Affairs for possible funding through minute number MFA/STA/2442C dated 27th April 2017. However, as at 31st August 2018, the funds had not been sent to the Mission to settle the loan,” read the report.
“On 20th December 2016, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs recalled the First Secretary Press and was directed to return to Zambia not later than 20th March, 2017. At the time of leaving, the Officer was owing the former Landlord an amount of €1,906.28 (US$2,240.90) as cost for damages to the house. As at 31st August 2018, the Mission had not resolved the matter with the Landlord.”