The Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday was disgusted after learning that the value of 15 audit queries under the Ministry of Transport and Communications involved K1.2 billion which was allegedly plundered.

This came to light after ministry Permanent Secretary Eng Misheck Lungu and his team appeared before the committee to respond to audit queries which were cited in the Auditor General’s Report for the financial year ended 31st December 2017.

Addressing the controlling officer after his submission, committee chairperson Howard Kunda said it was shocking that 15 queries could amount to K1.2 billion, a sign that there was a big problem in the ministry.

“I have a schedule of how you have performed PS from 2015 to 2017 and looking at the figures, it is shocking that you could allow these figures to escalate. In the Auditor General’s report for 2015 there were nine queries and it was K277,731, 2016 there were 19 queries worth K554 million plus, and you have been moving [up], in 2017 you had K1,262,000 plus with 15 queries. On 19 queries it is K554 million. So that gives you an indication that there is a very big problem with issues to do with finances. And that problem we would like you to deal with it and this is arising from this analysis of 2015, 2016, and 2017. I am sure you should have that information that in the current Auditor General’s report, that is the figure as compared to the queries,” Kunda said.

Eng Lungu who was over-consulted his supporting staff during the deliberations to the extent that he was asked to leave the room and go outside for two minutes to conclude the consultations blubbered when he was asked to justify the figures.

“The issues of finances are that K1. 080 721, 926 plus, I am giving you an issue of what is obtaining there, so get it. Then procurement and supplies unit, there is K181, 540, 499. So you can see that there are issues. With engineering technicals, 2015 [and] 2016 there was nothing with that department, there was no query [but] coming to this year [which] is the year we are dealing with (2017), there is K160 000 also showing that there are a lot of lapses. Then when you look at your office as controlling officer, in 2015 there was K40 million plus, in 2016 it went up to K358 million plus and [in] 2017 there is nothing. So it looks like you have listened but you have not put emphasis on how those systems that you have put in place around you are not working in other departments,” Kunda said.

“So we want you to address these issues PS. And also we have observed that you are not being proactive in some areas [and so] we would want you to be proactive before even the auditors come to audit. And also PS we have seen that we have been dealing with the same queries. We would like you to deal with these matters and make sure you make use of your internal auditors.”

Eng Lungu also incensed the committee when he said it was okay for RTSA to work on a five-year unsigned agreement with Zampost when collecting monies on behalf of the agency because Zampost was a government entity which needed support.

“I want to appreciate Honorable [Victor] Lumayi’s concern on having operated without any legal mandate. It was a lapse on the part of our management from Road Transport and Safety Agency and Zampost itself, which lapse cannot be condoned and the assumption was that since the party (Zampost) was allowed to collect [on behalf of the agency] the assumption was that the contract that brought the parties to be on an agreement was going to prevail. But it’s a situation that is unacceptable and it has now been corrected and we’ve moved on the right path. But in terms of how are we going to collect the resources now that Zampost doesn’t have enough liquidity, I think the understanding is that Zampost will provide the services in view that part of its entitled commission will be deducted to ensure that we offset liability,” Eng Lungu said.

He said the partnership between RTSA and Zampost was basically to give Zampost work to do so that it did not get free money from the Treasury.

“I want to put on record chair that Zampost is a national asset and it is only prudent that we provide Zampost with work to do than give it money from the treasury without doing work because all of us need it to exist. It forms that part of a district, a part of a town that we are creating. Zampost has a wider footprint to make the services of RTSA accessible to the people. Yes Zampost as an institution is not bad but maybe we had a wrong management that was running with the institution that didn’t realise the importance of agreements that were made between Zampost and people that give it contracts,” said Eng Lungu.

“That is why I have mentioned that with the new management that we have at Zampost, they have seen the need that we need to respect the customer who gives us business which one of them is RTSA. Si I think it’s basically that Zampost does not get free money from the treasury. And that is why we have said let’s not trhow away Zampost but let’s maybe change the management thinking at the helm of Zampost so that there is that commitment that Zanmpost should perform for its income.”

His response annoyed Mwansa Mbulakulima who said there was no sense in continuing to give business to Zampost just because it was a government entity even when the institution was performing badly.

Mbulakulima said Zampost was not created for the sake of creating it but that it was created for the purpose of declaring dividends and provide services for the people.

On a different query, Eng Lungu also told the committee that ZNBC was owing amounts totalling to K1,205,740 cited as uncollected revenue to ZICTA.

Eng Lungu said debt swap talks were underway.