ZAMBIA Correctional Services (ZCS) Commissioner General Dr Chisela Chileshe has admitted that there were some irregularities in the management of the Prisons Industries Revolving Fund last year.

The Auditor General’s Report revealed that in the ZCS, nine correctional facilities in Central Province generated amounts totalling K732,175 from the sale of maize and mealie meal, but only K2,250 had been remitted, contrary to the Zambia Prisons Service standing orders.

“The Zambia Prison Service Standing Orders No. 674 (1) stipulates that revenue received in respect of Prison Industries will be credited to the Prisons Industries Revolving Fund (PIRF) Account. During the period under review, nine correctional facilities in Central Province generated amounts totalling K732,175 from sale of maize and mealie meal. As at 31st August, 2020, only K2,250 had been remitted and credited to the Fund while the balance of K729,925 was applied on administrative expenses contrary to the Standing Orders,” the Report read.

During a Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC) session, Tuesday, Chavuma UPND member of parliament Victor Lumayi wanted to find out why the standing orders had taken too long to be reviewed.

“This query is from Central Province K732,175 was generated and you only deposited in your PIRF account, K2,250 then the rest of the money were used on administrative expenses and now in your own submission, you are saying the standing order of this PIRF account, they have not been revealed since 1973. So, you have now submitted to the Secretary to the Treasury so that these standing orders of this fund, they are reviewed, so the question is: why has it taken so long to review the standing orders of this fund because, now, if people are able to use this money at their own will, I don’t know how you are correcting this fund and it also appears that it is a source of concern because whilst prisoners are generating these funds, maybe to help themselves and these monies are not utilised properly. So, why has it taken so long to review the standing orders of this fund?” asked Lumayi.

In response, Dr Chileshe said each station had its own PIRF account and funds were only deposited to the central account when the stations procure inputs from the generated income.

“We, as a service, accept the observation and we are still emphasising that we need to do much better, but what normally is happening is that before the funds were pulled in one centralised account of PRF based at headquarters, and there was actually more misuse than if it was sitting at their local generated funds. The encouragement that we give is that if a station generates K10,000, they should keep it in the PRF account at the local station and if they want to use it, they normally use an application and authority is given or granted and that is the process that we have been asking to say that the PRF account or regulations that have been there for more than 45 years should be regulated so that these (who) seemingly misuse, which is not there. So, we encourage the local stations to actually generate even further. Before they can deposit into central Treasury, they need to safeguard their inputs and this is I think is one area perhaps where we need these regulations to actually be appealed and safeguard the funds,” Dr Chileshe said.

And Ministry of Home Affairs Permanent Secretary Dr Masiye Banda observed that the administrative expenses in question were not allowances and if guidelines were followed, it would mean the stoppage of commercial activities under the current regulations.

“These administrative expenses are not expenses like allowances or what, they are expenses meant to run the commercial activities, expenses meant to generate the same money. You are running something, chigayo, hammer mill, you need to put in fuel there and what do you do for you to generate more maize? So, if we really do go by these guidelines, we are as good as saying, ‘let the commercial activities stop,’ but we don’t want to stop, Honourable Chairman, that’s why we are really actively engaging the Ministry of Finance, who have really come on board to support us to review these guidelines, I submit,” said Dr Banda.

Meanwhile, Accountant General Kennedy Musonda said his office received correspondence from the Ministry and said they would act on it this year in order to align the standing orders in line with the Public Financial Management Act.

“The Treasury did receive the request on the Prison Revolving Fund Review. We opted not to proceed last year, but it was being considered. We declined on the basis that it does affect the current financial regulations. We are still in the process of finishing the financial regulations in relation to the Act, so we needed to first review. So, this year, we will provide staff to do an assessment to bring it in line with the current regulations,” said Musonda.