The parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday sent away Fisheries and Livestock Permanent Secretary Dr David Shamulenge after he attempted to submit a disorganised document.
And ministry Acting Director of Finance Vincent Mwaba angered committee Chairperson Howard Kunda when he said the attached appendixes were only available for audit verification by the auditors and not by the committee.
This was when Dr Shamulenge and his battalion of 27 supporting staff members appeared before the named committee to respond to audit queries cited in the Auditor General’s report for the financial year ended 31st December, 2017.
After being given the opportunity to present his submission to the committee, Dr Shamulenge started by apologising for making a submission which had un-tagged appendixes.
“Thank you very much chair [but] firstly I would like to extend my apologies [because] our appendixes are not tagged. We would want the committee to bear with us. I wanted to mention this,” Dr Shamulenge apologized.
Then Kunda wondered why the PS could not control the mistake before appearing before his committee.
“But PS, when you know that you are supposed to do this, why are you not doing it? You come here to come and apologise? [or] have you just realised that this is the position? or is it that you are just going through now and you have just seen that your appendixes are not tagged? And it’s very difficult to follow. Are you just seeing it now?” Kunda asked.
Dr Shamulenge responded by saying the mistake was noticed earlier before and that he thought it was already corrected.
“No honourable chair. I’ve been conducting the meetings with this [and] so I expected them to be tagged. We want to apologise,” he responded.
Dr Shamulenge was then queried on the 14 missing payment vouchers in amounts totalling K17, 780 which were not available for audits at Serenje district fisheries and livestock coordinating offices.
“I wish to submit that the payment vouchers are missing because there was suspected fraud by the responsible officer in question. The officer was suspended on 16th June, 2017 following the allegation of forgery and uttering false documents. The matter was later reported to police under the criminal investigation department (anti-fraud unit). According to the police report dated 10th June, 2018, he was interviewed in connection with the matter and he did not give satisfactory answers. He was later charged and arrested for forgery and uttering false documents and theft by public servant and will appear in court soon.”
Then Senga Hill constituency member PF of parliament Kapembwa Simbao interrupted the proceeding and said he was finding difficulties to find the appendixes.
“I am worried on page two which is on what he is reading, at the end there, there is a statement that ‘available for audit verification’ but I don’t know where these records are because they are not indicated on what appendix. Why I am raising this is because it has repeated on page three. So now what do you expect us to do if we are not being told where to go to see where these things are?” Simbao asked.
This was at a point when acting Director of Finance Vincent Mwaba chipped in to assist his boss and in trying to do so angered Kunda when he said that the appendixes were bulky and only available to the auditors and not the committee.
“These documents are available for audit verification and are quiet bulky. So it’s not that…they needed to be verified by the auditors and not by the honourable members. So we have them with us here [in] a separate file. We are inviting the auditors to verify the documents,” Mwale responded.
And Kunda responded by saying “So what are you doing here if you don’t want us to look at these documents? You have referred to them in your answer but you don’t want us to look at them. What are you doing here? And how do we conclusively deal with this matter? because you have come here to appear before this committee, [and] not [to] the auditor general. So why are you referring to documents that you have not provided for us to have a look and to see whether what you are talking about is exactly the way it is?”
Then Dr Shamuenge apologised after noticing that his director’s response did not mean well to the committee.
The committee asked for a five minutes break to allow the committee peruse the referred bulky document.
After the break, Kunda sent away the PS and his team saying that the “business as usual” way of running things in government was over.
“Welcome back PS. [As a committee] we have made a decision on this issue. I think that you know [that] this time around here, we would like to ensure that you PS are up to date with everything that you are doing and to ensure that we are no longer dealing with a “business as usual” way of doing things. And therefore, issues to do with public finance management have to be taken very seriously because we are losing too much revenue for this country to move forward. So when you indicate that there are documents that you would need us to see and compare with what you are talking about, it is very important that you attach those documents,” Kunda said.
“We have seen that in some areas you have just said ‘available for audit verification’ and in some areas you have referred to appendixes which is the correct thing, but also we would like you to put these documents in order so that it’s easier for us and for yourself to refer to these documents that you attach. So therefore, we will ask you to go and prepared yourself properly and adequately so that when you come, you [will] bring a document that is acceptable,” Kunda said.
He asked the PS to re-submit before his committee on Wednesday, December 5, 208 at 09:30 hours.