MINISTRY of Transport and Communications Permanent Secretary Misheck Lungu has wondered why some of the queries that were contained in the Auditor General’s report were not resolved in-house even when information was readily available.

Responding to Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairperson Howard Kunda, who wanted to find out why certain queries kept recurring and remained unresolved by the Ministry, Lungu said that issues such as the Service-Level Agreement between the Ministry of Finance and a commercial bank was not something that needed to be explained or appear in the Auditor General’s report.

“At a point of audit, chair, to respond to your question, efforts were made to ensure that these things should be closed. I will give an example, something was closed in the DAP, it’s a paragraph in the Auditor General’s report. The Service-Level Agreement between the Ministry of Finance and the banks, it’s an audit query for the PS of transport to respond. Service-Level Agreement between the Ministry of Finance and a commercial bank, the Accountant General is seated here with us, really, did we need a PS to come and explain that? So, we presented these issues and I want to put it on record that we can reduce the appearance before your committee if we agree as institutions of government that, ‘let’s sit down and resolve these issues and guide each other.’ If the Auditor General writes in his report that, ‘this issue we have noted, can we have it kept in view that we see actions and give us reports?’ You will not see us coming to you. I think these are the efforts that we need to do outside your committee and we made these efforts. Unfortunately, we have a report in the DAP on a matter that was closed,” Lungu said.

“I wanted to just maybe complete what you didn’t want to say that the issues that we are appearing before you today are issues that should have been sorted out in-house without us appearing before your committee and that’s exactly my presentation. If you notice, these issues should have been dealt with us as institutions in government to perfect the art of an institution like RTSA. But we are here, today, before yourselves as a committee, we have to respond to your questions and show you our direction.”

And when asked whether the continued appearance of the queries was a sign of negligence, Lungu said that issues such as the dormant accounts on the system was an administration challenge, which didn’t need to be in the report.

“Chair, in every system, when you are implementing policies that change, you won’t leap-frog. Change happens, big change can be seen by making small changes, what am I saying, it has come out today because at the point when the auditor visited us, this is a clear administration challenge that we faced. But I want to report to you, chair, that from 2019 to-date, we have resourced RTSA with competent officers at the level of management. If we look at ICT challenges that you are seeing today, it’s a lack of communication between a department of human resource and IT,” he replied.

And RTSA board chairperson Dr Cornelius Chipoma said the Agency had instituted a task-force to comb through the audit findings, adding that certain findings did not need to recur repeatedly.

“As a board, we have a new management team that we are absolutely confident about in terms of their understanding of the vision and the mandate of the institution. So, beyond just even the issues around financial management, we are really trying to escalate our responses on the safety side. So, the issues around tow trucks, we are prioritising them, we are even reaching out to the private sector to see if they can help us acquire this equipment because it’s urgent, we need it. On the issues related to the micro issues that have come before you, we, too, are frustrated so we have constituted a taskforce to really comb through some of the audit findings that we have because we are just as frustrated. There are certain things that we feel should not come up repeatedly. In terms of the specific issues around the legislative framework for our institution, we feel burdened as well because if we can’t get the resources we need we have to haggle with NRFA, reach out to the Secretary to the Treasury, we can’t do our work and it’s just not attainable. We have been trying to really persuade different institutions to avail more funding, and to be honest, it’s frustrating for us as well,” said Dr Chipoma.

Meanwhile, RTSA chief executive officer Gladwell Banda explained that the tow truck that was involved in an accident and extensively damaged, was purchased at a cost of K1.7 million, but was insured for only K1 million, and will cost K4 million to repair in South Africa.

He, however, hastened to add that purchasing a new truck would cost K9 million, an amount the Agency could not currently afford.

But in closing, Kunda said the Agency was reactive because they would have identified and dealt with the issues raised before the auditors’ arrival, adding that the trend of waiting for the Auditor General to identify issues should be a thing of the past.