AUDITOR General Dick Sichembe has vowed that his office will continue to expose those who mismanage and abuse public funds.
And USAID director in the office of the Democratic Rights and Governance Dr Nina Bowen says strong and independent government institutions, the press and civil society have a role to play in rooting out corruption and providing greater transparency and accountability in governance.
Meanwhile, Swedish Ambassador to Zambia Anna Maj Hultgård says the Auditor General’s Office is important to national economic development.
Speaking during the launch of the simplified Auditor General’s report, Thursday, Sichembe said he hoped citizens would participate more effectively in the accountability and governance process.
“With the simplified report, we hope that the citizens will participate more effectively in the accountability and governance process as they become empowered with information on the management of public resources. The citizens are ultimate beneficiaries of our work. I therefore, wish to warn those that are in the habit of mismanagement of public funds that our office will not sit idle but will continue combating this scourge and expose perpetrators,” Sichembe vowed.
Sichembe disclosed that his office had made changes to the audit process and timeline which was necessitated by the Constitution Amendment Act No 1 of 2016 which required him to submit audit reports nine months after the end of each financial year.
“Let me also take advantage of this press briefing to inform our various stakeholders that we have made changes to the audit process and timelines which will be communicated through a circular. The changes in the timelines has been necessitated by the Constitution Act No 1 of 2016 which now requires that I submit the audit report nine months after the end of each financial year. Whereas there was change in the Constitution for the reporting date, the timelines for the audit process has remained unchanged,” he said.
He explained the significance of the simplified audit report.
“I wish to state that the simplified report does not in any way replace the ordinary report of the Auditor General’s report but has been produced merely to supplement the audit report for the purpose of making it easy for our citizens to understand. The production of this report is all in line with the International Organization of Supreme Audit I storerooms which requires Supreme audit institutions communicate effectively with stakeholders in a manner that makes easier for the public to understand,” he said.
He thanked the cooperate partners and various stakeholders for their unwavering support in ensuring that the simplified report was produced.
And in her remarks, Dr Bowen said it was important for government officials to respond clearly when questioned how public funds were being used.
“It is important that the financial resources from Zambian government are spent efficiently and transparently. When Zambians, who are taxpayers, ask how their resources are being used, government stewards of those resources must be able to respond clearly how those funds are building the Country and seeing lives of the people. The U.S. government believes that strong and independent government institutions, the press and civil society all have a role to play in rooting out corruption, providing greater transparency and accountability in governance. We are all accountable to the Zambian public,” she said.
Dr Bowen said the recent Auditor General’s report had revealed weaknesses in public sector procurement contracting processes and store management.
“The recent Auditor General’s report has revealed weaknesses in the public sector procurement and contracting processes and stores management. In this regard, we will work with the Office of Auditor General to further equip it’s auditors with the necessary knowledge and skills to audit these critical areas,” she said.
She said at present, it was difficult for citizens to assess government’s progress on addressing audit queries because they did not have access to the “action taken report” from the executive.
“At present, it is difficult for citizens to assess the government’s progress on addressing audit queries raised by the Office of Auditor General as citizens do not have access to action taken report from the Executive. It is important that such progress reports are made available to the public for citizens to monitor the status of implementation of audit recommendations,” said Dr Bowen.
She pledged that in the coming year, USAID would support the Office of the Auditor General to pilot a National Monitoring Framework to track resolutions of all the audit queries.
Meanwhile, Ambassador Hultgård said the Auditor General’s office was important to national economic development.
“The oversight role of the office in the management of public finances is important to the national economic development of the country because it promotes accountability and transparency and ensures that finances are used for the intended purposes. Real transparency and openness entitled simplifying documents to a level that every citizen can understand and utilize the information,” said Ambassador Hultgård.