AUDITOR General Dick Sichembe says his office had difficulties getting information from the Ministry of Works and Supply for audit, wondering why the Ministry opted to willingly submit to the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) instead.
And Milenge PF member of parliament Mwansa Mbulakulima has expressed disappointment that Ministry of Works and Supply permanent secretary Agness Musunga has no control over the Road development Agency and National Road fund Agency even though they fall under her ministry.
Speaking during a PAC sitting, Wednesday, Sichembe said the information provided by Musunga to the committee was not made available to his office.
“To start with, I just want to bring to the attention of the committee before I go into the specifics that the Ministry of Works and Supply unfortunately is one of the ministries that we had a lot of difficulties in getting the information and with me, I have got reminders to the PS on several occasions requesting for information to be submitted during the audit process…The information that was provided in the DAP and the status of the DAP is not the same,” said Sichembe.
“Then failure to obtain authority for conference services, again in summary Chair, the authorities were not given and management regretted that they did that without authority like it is reading here but now the authorities have been given with the submissions here. So that is the most difficulties that we have had because most of the documents that were asked for were not submitted and we can go on and but the only difficulty that we have is that the information according to the write-up signed by the PS, they were not available and they regretted but now they have submitted the information that they have, I don’t know where the authority has come from, maybe it was the issue of not paying particular attention to give us the information. So the information was not given like I have indicated but it has been submitted here Chair, that is the difficulty that we have.”
And Mbulakulima challenged the PS to ensure improved revenue collection by her ministry to help lessen ZRA’s work.
“Controlling officer, we had three segments, we had the National Road Fund Agency, we had the RDA and then the mainstream. We are disappointed with all the three under your jurisdiction in this regard. It is expected that ZRA also will need a cushion when it comes to revenue collections, so your ministry is critical in this regard. We expected that RDA, NRFA and the mainstream will actually complement, enhance revenue collection to this country. Without apportioning any blame, we realize that NRFA, if you look at it from last year to this year, they have made tremendous improvement and with firm control, they may not appear next financial year. Chief executive officer, we observed your effort but much more must be done. As we have said, Zambia Revenue Authority who are the tax collectors need a shoulder and NRFA could be a second to them. So the task is huge, should we be complacent or add value to the K1.2 billion, good, but next time we want to see it coming to K2 billion, you have the capacity. Those leakages, ensure that they are actually controlled,” Mbulakulima said
“RDA, the weigh bridges, we can see that the country is bleeding in terms of maintenance of the roads. The bulk of our goods now do move by road. The rail system is on the low side, so unless you are alert, the issue of giving those manually and then whatever I think that is laissez-faire. RDA is a modern institution and they are to be on top of things. Look at the revenue collection more than looking just at the expenditure, you can do better.”
He also expressed disappointment that Musunga did not ensure that all the information was given to the auditors.
“Controlling officer, you really have very little control over RDA and NRFA, your core control is over the mainstream of which we are very disappointed, we must mention this without any shame. The observation from the beginning that you are one of the most experienced and today, we wonder what kind of experience, you are one of the few that the country could have depended on but what we see is different. Your revelation that you are one of those that have been charged justifies that action. This committee has got no option but to apply the Public Finance Act as it is, no personalization of matters because it is not the duty of this committee to receive documents ‘now ready for verification’, it’s too late. All those issues must be handled at the Auditor General’s level, once that’s over, they become public issues because the Auditor General’s report is in the public domain, we shall also be judged as a committee, how effective we are by dealing with those issues, even if we come and agree with you that now you have provided the answer, when the AG’s report is there, then we are also found to be compromised,” said Mbulakulima.
“So we are disappointed with you to say the least. So far you are one of the few with the longest report, this report should not have been like this and all these issues are avoidable, they shouldn’t have come to this level. We are disappointed because this is not the first time we are meeting you, its not the first time you are going to assure us, you have assured us in the past but w have seen is the same, same stories.”
And speaking earlier, Musunga explained that most of the queries raised in the report would have been dealt with because the information was available in the Ministry hence the disciplinary action meted upon erring officers
“Availability of information Sir, I have explained as to the reasons why this was done and we had to sit down when the Auditor General’s report came out, we had to sit down and look at it very critically and when we found that most of these queries that were raised really could have been dealt with because the information was available in the ministry that’s why we took action on erring officers who were unable to provide this information at the time the Auditors wanted it because this information was available in the Ministry. I did give an example of a contract, those works could not have happened without a contract, the contract was there. When the Auditor asked for it, this contract should have been availed to the auditor but it was not done that’s why we took disciplinary action. We are aware of the provisions and that’s why we took disciplinary action and w have taken note and as a ministry we have organized ourselves further, we have introduced a committee that will be meeting every month to look at all transactions in the ministry to avoid such occurrences in the future,” said Musunga.