DISASTER Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU) national coordinator Chanda Kabwe has maintained that the utilisation of COVID-19 funds has been transparent despite the Auditor General’s Interim Report on the utilisation of COVID-19 funds indicating a number of irregularities.
And Kabwe says as one of the controlling officers summoned to exculpate themselves over the utilisation of COVID-19 funds, he cannot say much about the interim audit report.
According to the Report, there were pledges and donations in terms of cash amounting to K2 million in provinces and districts that were given to the DMMU that were not reported.
“During the period from 25th March to 29th April, 2020, the Unit received donations in form of face masks, hand sanitisers, methylated spirit, sprayers, hand wash basins, among others, with an estimated value of over K245,760 from 12 companies and donors. However, the following were noted: Lack of Criteria in the Distribution of Donated Items; the Unit had no written-down procedures to be used in the distribution of the donated items and as such, the modality used in the issuance to various Ministries and other institutions could not be ascertained as no priority assessment was done to ensure that the items are donated to high-risk areas. In response, the National Coordinator, DMMU, indicated that the donations were made based on the risk analysis in the COVID-19 multi-sectoral Contingency and Response Plan. However, no evidence of the risk analysis reports were availed for audit,” the Report disclosed.
“In provincial and districts offices, an examination of records revealed that, as at 31st July, 2020, there were pledges and donations in form of cash in amounts totalling K2,860,000, Aid-In-Kind valued at over K2,028,001 and US $10,000 and other assorted items not valued. It was observed that there was no mechanism in place to ensure that donations by various stakeholders made in the provinces were reported to headquarters for consolidation. As such, the completeness of materials donated could not be verified. In response, the National Coordinator, DMMU, indicated that updates on donations made to provincial and district offices were available for verification. However, as at 14th August, 2020, no reports on donations from provincial and district offices were availed for audit and the updated register of donations was not availed.”
But reacting to the report’s findings, Kabwe stressed that it was important to wait for the final Auditor General’s report in order to ascertain the true reflection of the utilisation of the COVID-19 funds.
“You have said that is an interim report and you should know that at the time that audit was being conducted, it was at the peak of the COVID itself. I think for us, it is more important to save life, it was more important to save you from dying of COVID. I am sure that being an interim report, the main report will come at the end of this year and I am sure the audit will be done. That is the time you can make more comments. But I still stand with what I said that there is a lot of transparency in the fight of COVID,” Kabwe said in an interview.
“You must know that this thing happened for the first time in the country, not just in Zambia, but everywhere and the panic is there. You could see that even bigger economies had issues to manage the COVID, but we tried and we did our best. You can see the recoveries and so I am sure that we will talk more when the final report is done…That is just an interim report; we will talk more when the final report is done.”
Kabwe reiterated that there was transparency in the utilisation of the COVID-19 funds.
“I still insist that there is a lot of transparency in the issues dealing with COVID -19 and I am sure that when the full audit is done, a report will be given. For now, I wouldn’t say much because we have been asked to exculpate ourselves by government through the Secretary to Cabinet (Dr Simon Miti), so I don’t want to start fending before I respond to my charge letter. So, for now, I wouldn’t say much until such a time when we will be able to speak. But I want to insist that there is a lot of transparency in the fight for the COVID,” said Kabwe.
“I am sure you have seen how the Interim Report has come, and I am sure you can see what has been reported on DMMU, and I am sure it is there for you to see. If you have seen what has been reported, if I lie, that it was full of transparency then I don’t know, but the Report is very clear. I am sure you can see that the institution that has ben cited and all of us we can see. It is for you, colleagues in the media and public to judge, if, truly, we used the money prudently or we misused, because the interim Report is there.”