Western Province Permanent Secretary Sibanze Simuchoba on Wednesday admitted before the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that public funds amounting to K584,570, which were meant for various developmental activities, were misapplied under his administration.
And PAC also learnt how Western Province illegally paid amounts totaling to K187,819 as hotel bills for its former provincial deputy permanent secretary Bernard Chomba.
This came to light when the provincial controlling officer appeared before PAC to respond to audit queries raised in the Auditor General’s report for the financial year ended 31st December 2017.
“Contrary to the Appropriation Act of 2016, amounts totaling K584, 570.00 meant for maintenance of government buildings, dredging of canals and borehole drilling among others were applied on unrelated activities such as payment of subsistence allowances, trade fair and payroll validation among others without obtaining authority from the Secretary to the Treasury. As at 31st August 2018, the funds had not been refunded. As a result of the misapplication, activities such as maintenance of government buildings were not fully implemented,” read the AG report.
In response, Simuchoba first defended the misapplication, saying the money was rightly applied because funding the trade fair was equal to reducing poverty.
After being grilled, however, Simuchoba admitted that the funds were misapplied.
“I wish to report that amounts totalling K447,023.54 were paid from the correct programmes and activities under the poverty reduction programmes. An amount of K137,546.48 was a borrowings to facilitate government programmes when my office was not funded for recurrent departmental charges,” said Simuchoba.
In another audit query, it was revealed that the provincial administration paid amounts totaling to K187,819 to Country Lodge for settlement of bills incurred during the period 1st January 2013 to 2nd October 2015 as conference facilities, buffets and officers’ accommodation and meals for its former deputy PS.
“During the period under review, the provincial administration paid a total amount of K187, 819.00 to Country Lodge for settlement of bills incurred during the period 1st January 2013 to 2nd October 2015 in respect of conference facilities, buffets and officers’ accommodation and meals. Included in the settled bills amounting to K187, 819.00 were bills totalling K111, 655.00 incurred by three officers. (i) Deputy permanent secretary K11, 571 meal allowances, K65, 550 accommodation and total K77, 121.00; (ii) former provincial minister K13, 816 meals, K10, 750 accommodation, and total K24, 566.00; and (iii) former permanent secretary K9, 168, accommodation K800, and K9, 968.00. however the settling of the bills incurred by officers was questionable as there were no such provisions in the Terms and Conditions of Service for the public service,” read the report.
“It was also observed that amounts totaling K18, 530.00 were paid to two other lodges namely; Hostels Board Management (K16, 530.00) and Mwandamena Lodge (K2, 000.00) for settlement of meal and accommodation bills that were accrued by four officers following their transfers from various stations to the provincial administration. The payments were irregular in that they were not in accordance with the Terms and Conditions of Service for the Public Service.”
And in response Simuchoba said a recovery process for amounts totaling to K77,121 had already been instituted.
“Recoveries in amounts totalling [to] K77, 121. 00 have been instituted from one officer (former PS). A letter has been written to the Secretary to the Treasury through the office of the accountant general to help institute recoveries for the former permanent secretary who is in the foreign service. A letter has been written to the secretary to the treasury through the office of the accountant general to help institute recoveries from the former provincial minister’s benefits who is currently not in the civil service. Further recoveries amounting to K6, 600.00 have been instituted from officers for settlement of bills for meals and accommodation that were accrued to lodges by the officers following their transfers from other stations to the provincial administration Western Province. I have written to PMEC to recover the balance of K11, 930.00 for officers not sitting on provincial administration payroll,” submitted Simuchoba.