The Parliamentary Committee on Local Governments says it will recommend for appropriate action to be taken against the Kasama Municipal Council for wasting tax payers’ money when it illegally hired a Ford Ranger for its mayor at a cost of K17,850.

In its sitting to receive submissions on the audit queries raised by the Auditor General’s Office on the accounts of local authorities for the financial years ended 31st December 2015, 2016 and 2017, the committee chaired by Ikelengi UPND member of parliament Elijah Muchima heard that the council in 2016 hired a Ford Ranger for its Mayor to attend four different meetings for 21 days.

“On 27th December 2016, the Council paid K17,850 for hire of a motor vehicle ADB 836 for the use of His Worship the Mayor for twenty-one (21) days. However, the hire of a motor vehicle was irregular as it was not authorized by the Council,” the Auditor General’s report read.

But when he appeared before the committee, Kasama Town Council clerk Zakeyo Mbao said the vehicle was hired in an emergency situation.

And a procurement officer told the committee that she processed the procurement of the vehicle because she had received a memo from the town clerk.

“I proceeded to process the procurement in my capacity as procurement officer because I had received a requisition for procurement in form of a memo from the town clerk,” she said.

Mbao also admitted that his office did not seek authority from the council when hiring the vehicle for the mayor.

“Chair, the procedure is that for any procurement to commence, first, the council has to give authority and in times when there is an emergency, for example, management will sit to look at the urgency of the matter and from that, you report back to the council for them to ratify a decision that you could have made when you were in an emergency. And I want to indicate here chair that it was our lapse that omitted the issue of going back to the council for ratification so that the process could be concluded. But management sat to discuss the issue of how the mayor was supposed to proceed and a decision was made but of course, we erred in that we didn’t take back the matter to the council for ratification,” Mbao said.

And Kasama Mayor Frederick Chisanga explained to the committee what he used the hired vehicle for.

“Yes, I remember very well [that] at one time we went to Ndola for the general conference. The vehicle was hired. And then the other time, I went to Lusaka to attend a meeting. Then the other time I went to Livingstone for a workshop by ZCAS and the last time we used that vehicle was when we went to Mongu for the LGAZ executive meeting. That was the last time I used that vehicle,” said Chisanga.

But Muchima expressed displeasure over the manner in which the council disregarded procedure.

“It is irregular because the council didn’t approve, neither did you have express authority. These are government resources that need to be protected. We have been ministers and directors and you don’t just direct to say ‘give me this and that.’ There are procedures and regulations on how you use government resources. Now, as a council, you took it upon yourselves to ignore the regulations [and] that is why you are appearing before this committee. This is government money which was spent on an unauthorized business because it was not approved,” Muchima said.

He also wondered whether all four incidents were emergencies.

“How many emergencies were there for four times? [You mean] all the four times travel there was an emergency? Was your mayor the chairing person for that meeting such that if he didn’t attend, the meeting could not proceed? Your car or your vehicle town clerk could not take him? And I don’t even know why a mayor and a town clerk don’t share vehicles and yet you are failing to pay workers. You are going in the same direction [but] each one has to have his own vehicle, meanwhile, the council is failing to pay the workers but you want to have a convoy of 15 vehicles just to attend one function,” Muchima said.

“We need to be thinking outside the box. We have no resources to waste. Us as members of parliament we go for workshops in Livingstone on a bus. Those who want luxury go with their own vehicles at their own expense with a memo written by the clerk. But you people have got the pleasure and as a committee, we don’t entertain that pleasure. The government has no money.”

Muchima said the committee would recommend for appropriate action to be taken against the local authority for the careless loss of resources.

“The hire was made without the authority of the council and according to regulations, the committee wants to recommend that it was illegal. If he traveled on official duties, he would make his claims but in so far as these trips were concerned and there was no authority, the committee will recommend for appropriate action to be written and you will be informed accordingly. Otherwise, take note that it was an illegal transaction. The government should not lose money anyhow like that. And please we warn you that don’t manufacture any receipts or documents because that will be tantamount to fraud,” warned Muchima.

Mbao then apologized to the committee for the lapses and for not being able to appear together with his predecessor before the committee.

“As management, we are apologetic on issues that we could have had time to present before you especially with the issues that we are faced with. For example, we were unable to have my predecessor here and it would have been more helpful to answer certain questions which maybe I did not handle properly,” said Mbao.