Home Affairs Permanent Secretary Dr Chileshe Mulenga on Monday had a tough time trying to justify to the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on why the Immigration Department at KK Airport delayed to bank collected revenues amounting to K263,500 for 425 days.
And Dr Mulenga caused a stir when he arrived with a huge delegation of officers from cited departments saying he dragged them along so they could also be grilled individually.
“I can see that we have a problem of seats [and] so maybe I would suggest that those who have no issues can go and sit at the lobby so that they can follow the proceedings from there. But PS, are they all supposed to be here?” committee chairperson Howard Kunda asked.
In response, Dr Mulenga said was important for the officers be present because they were the same ones who who caused him to be summoned by the committee.
But Kunda asked some officers to follow the proceedings via parliament TV in the lobby as the committee room was filled to capacity.
One of the major issues which were at the core of deliberations was delayed banking of revenue amounting to K263,500.
“Contrary to Financial Regulations No.121 which states that all money received by any accounting officer shall be deposited not later than next business day following the day of receipt, there were delays in banking revenue in amounts totalling K263, 500 (USD 350) for periods ranging from 4 to 425 days,” read the query on the Auditor General’s report.
Responding to this audit query, Dr Mulenga said, “The delays were as a result of the reconciliations not being done on time. However during the routine pre audits, responsible officers were made to pay for the shortfalls in order to balance up the books. Management has since moved the officer from the station for failing to reconcile the records timely and assigned him with duties that do not involve handling of revenue and banking,” he said.
Asked by Chavuma UPND member of parliament Victor Lumayi if airport divison had a qualified accountant officer, Dr Mulenga replied in the negative.
“I am sorry chair but we do not have qualified accounting officers because the officers who collect revenue are trained as immigration officers. However, to avoid the problems…because international airport has been a challenge for some time, we’ve put an accounting officer who takes the responsibility of dealing with individual immigration officers. On the number of days for delayed banking, we have checked the records well and I am confident that the auditor general’s office once they see the evidence, will agree with us,” Dr Mulenga said.
Kunda wondered how many days was in the ministry’s calendar if banking was delayed by 425 days.
The permanent secretary then said the delayment was only for eight days and not what the auditors captured.
“If I remember chair it is six to eight days, not more than that. And I am very confident of the answer because we’ve had problems at Lusaka International Airport and we have had officers dismissed. It is a station where we’ve had random checks because we handle huge amounts of money there. So it is something we pay a lot of attention to. The issue happened on the Easter holiday when they were not able to bank but when they reported after the four days holiday, the, the money was not banked immediately because the accounting officer had to deal with several officers who had been on different shifts because each officer had to hand over individually and that took more than six days,” he responded.
Then Kunda asked the PS to explain why there was that delay when banks were within proximity.
Home Affairs Principal Internal Auditor only named as a Mr Sililo chipped in and tried to clarify the issue.
“One of the issues that brought to the number of days being recorded out of range was recorded on the 30th of March 2017 on receipt number 2373309 which was purported to be banked on 24th March 2018. However the correct position was the receipt number in question does not exist. It was a typographic error on the part of our colleagues from the other side (Auditor General’s office). The correct receipt number was 237309 which was receipted on 29th March 2017 and banked on 31st March 2017. When we calculate this number from how our auditor general reported, it is exactly 425 days. The other issue is the issue falling during the Easter holiday. On the Easter holiday, we have three shifts that are operational at the airport and at that particular time, the accountant does not work. He only works during working days. So the collections from Thursday to Monday were not banked accordingly,” Sililo explained.
Asked by Milenge PF member of parliament Mwansa Mbulakulima if the use of e-banking was an admittance that human beings were not honest with cash, Dr Mulenga replied in the affirmative.
“What I would like to say is that as a country, we do have problems of honesty [and] integrity. That is all out there to see. It is very rare that we do what we say we will do and as a people definitely we need to improve. Now, these are questions of money [and so] to make sure that money is collected and accounted for, we have to make use of the available aids. Yes, there are also officers who are very honest and they go out of their way to make sure that government revenue is accounted for but sometimes we do get a few bad eggs and those bad eggs when we get them, we get them out of the system,” Dr Mulenga said.
Asked when the cited officer was moved from the duties of handing cash, Dr Chileshe said he had been out of office for a week and that he was not debriefed by the one who was acting.
Meanwhile, Woodlands Police Station Officer in charge Binwell Masumba explained the challenge he was facing at his station.
“Speaking for my station, the number one challenge is the job description itself. We are deployed as police officers not to do some of the issues that we do. We do that because a police officer is perceived to have an extra sense. Certain things that we do are not within the job description. The challenges I face as a station , I have Kalikiliki for example where I give receipt books and the community there don’t believe or will not agree to be told that ‘you have to go and deposit the money in the direct deposit system.’ They will tell you to say ‘I have never stepped in the bank’ and then as officers on the ground what do we do? We receive that money and when we receive that money, we have to deposit or to bank it. The challenge now comes on how do we move from Kalikiliki to the place where there is a bank? Which is Woodlands. So you find that the officer who has received that money is supposed to have K30 for him to get on the bus and back to the police post. These are the some of the challenges that we face,” said Masumba.
In closing, Kunda warned the controling officer to lead by example as a law enforcer and avoid being cited in the next audit report.