Works and Supply Permanent Secretary Agnes Musunga has told the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that some cabinet ministers and their former counterparts owe government amounts totalling K253,993.79 for furniture which they bought on offer in 2016 and 2017.

And National Road Fund Agency (NRFA) chief executive officer Wallace Mumba says reports that government wants to contract a different company to collect toll fees on behalf of the agency are false.

This was revealed on Friday when the controlling officer and her team from NRFA, RDA, and Government Printers appeared before PAC to respond to audit queries cited in the Auditor General’s Report for the Financial ended 31st December, 2017.

Those owing include Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo, Former Community Development minister Emerine Kabanshi, Commerce Minister Cristopher Yaluma, Former Defence minister Richwell Siamunene and his former deputy Christopher Mulenga, North Western Province Minister Nathaniel Mubukwanu and Muchinga Province Minister Malozo Sichone.

Others are Former Transport deputy minister Andrew Mwali, Dorothy Kazungu, former Chililabombwe MP Esther Banda, Former chiefs and traditional affairs minister Susani Kawandami, and Mkushi South PF MP Davies Chisopa.

“In 2016 and 2017, the Secretary to the Cabinet granted authority to thirty one senior officers to purchase furniture costing K455,834 from their official residences. However, as at 31st July 2018, only 18 officers had paid for the furniture while 13 officers still owed amounts totalling K253,994,” the Auditor General’s report read.

In response, Musunga said the owing ministers had been reminded to clear the balance.

“I wish to acknowledge the audit findings regarding the above matter the balance of the 13 transactions amounting to K253,994. 00 is still not collected. You may wish to take cognizant that the affected officers are either serving or are former leaders. Enquiries were made to National Assembly and the Ministry of Finance to check if amounts in question were recovered from gratuities. The findings were that this was never done. With authorization from Secretary to the Cabinet, the Ministry wrote to the affected officers demanding payment,” Musunga responded.

Chavuma UPND member of parliament Victor Lumayi then asked what the recovery plan was for those who were no longer serving.

“On the issue of failure to collect revenue from the same government furniture, law must be adhered by every citizen and yes, this furniture was sold to government officers and I may want to know whether the Secretary to the Cabinet had sanctioned the sold furniture to serving leaders on credit or it was cash basis? I also want to know from you the recovery plan knowing that you have given us a schedule [but] I will not mention all the people involved here but they are all honourable members. For example, we have Honourable Malozo [Sichone with] a bill of K37,000, we have Honourable [Davies] Chisopa with] K14,000, we have Susan Kawandami MP [and] her bill is K7,800, we have honourable Esther Banda K14,000, we have Honourable Siamunene K12,000, others K25,000 [and] the list goes on and this money has not been paid from 2016. Most are the times when we are pushing civil servants to pay, we are recovering from their payslips but when we look at the prominent leaders who are here who got this furniture, some have not even paid a single ngwee from the date they got this furniture. So what is your recovery plan now when others are no longer serving MPs and ministers?” Lumayi asked.

In response, Musunga said the delays in recovering the funds was due to lack of reconciliation as some officers thought the deductions for the furniture they got were made on their salaries when in fact not.

She said some of them had already started coming forward to pay in cash.

Meanwhile, Committee Chairperson Howard Kunda asked the Ministry of Works and Supply officers to clarify whether or not it was true that NRFA was in the process of contracting a company to be collecting toll fees on its behalf.

“I have a question for you CEO, there has been an outcry in the public that people are overhearing. I don’t know where but these are things that are in the public and it’s being discussed that you are trying to give the collection of these funds (toll fees) from the toll gates to a different company when you have all the facilities that are there, and also in connection with the government (the Ministry of Finance). You have all the systems that are there to collect on behalf of the Zambian people. Would be in a position to confirm whether that is the true reflection of what the people are saying or not?” asked Kunda.

In response, Mumba said there were no such intentions.

“Chair I would like to mention that as management of NRFA and including the board of NRFA, we do not have that kind of intention in place. Essentially as an agency, we have continued collecting the revenues,” responded Mumba.