Mazabuka central UPND member of parliament Gary Nkombo has wondered whether President Edgar Lungu appointed for Accountant General Dickson Sichembe as Auditor General to specifically clean up the PF mess.
And Milengi PF member of parliament Mwansa Mbulakulima has called on the Minister of Finance to put up measures that will reduce the number of queries in the Auditor General’s report and deal with the issue of misapplication of funds.
In a debate on the budgetary allocation to the Auditor General’s office, Tuesday, Nkombo wondered why “Dracula had been put in charge of the blood bank”.
“I tend to think that that maybe this candidate, I have nothing against him. I know he was the Accountant General, how can Dracula be the head of the blood bank? The person who is dealing with the financials becomes the one who is following the financial trail. Just tell me, how? Is he there in order to erase the financial irregularities that we have been preaching about PF ever since this government took that position? We have a problem here, if the current acting Auditor General is good enough, bring his name here as a starting point, bring his name here so that we ratify him. I personally don’t know him but I have read about him. And I want to be the first one to tell you that if he is a man of good standing, I will be the one to support him because we need this void to filled. Why are you scared?,” asked Nkombo.
“A real tragedy [is] to have us to debate this particular vote of the Auditor General. Ever since Madam Anna Chifungula left the office of the Auditor General, we had an acting gentleman called Mr Ron Mwambwa who acted for two years and he left out of frustration and today, we have another man I am told and I stand to be corrected called Mr Dick Chellah Sichembe, acting, I want him to feel comfortable if he is in this House but I checked on the visitor’s register and he is not here. This presents a problem for me. This office is ring fenced by law, an Auditor General cannot be fired by the appointing authority but the appointing power sits right in the arms of the President. The President has been President for a long time, why hasn’t he appointed a substantive Auditor General whose name must be brought here for ratification? I think its deliberate on the part of the President, unfortunately this whole wide country, he is the only one with the power to appoint and Auditor General.”
And Mbulakulima said the issue of misapplication of funds could be avoided.
“Mr Chairman, the issue that maintained the same was the issue of misapplication of funds, while in 2017 we had 61.6 million, 2018 we had 62.4 million. In this regard, my appeal is to the Ministry of Finance. The issue of misapplication of funds which make the volume of the report of the Auditor General high can be avoided. Basically, misapplication is not theft but it’s non-adherence to the standing orders or to the rules and regulations. The current public finance management act specifies the penalties that go along with this. My appeal to the Ministry of Finance, it is within his reach. We can make improvements especially for government, take keen interest that we reduce the queries in the report, we can do it,” said Mbulakulima.
“Most of the controlling officers just do things with impunity, now there is a possibility because of the Public Finance Management Act in place where the penalties are highlighted, the Auditor General will be able to now audit the behavior and misconduct and find out whether the penalties were actually implemented. It is now the role of the Secretary to the Treasury to ensure that those who divert from the norms are penalized and punished. All they need is really to obtain the treasury authority, they are actually allowed to vary but often times they do not want to follow that. They only act on their own and as a result, year in year out, all you see are misapplication [of funds].”
Meanwhile, in a policy statement on the matter, Minister in the Office of the Vice-President Olipa Phiri said government would ensure that remedial action was taken on observations contained in the report.