DISASTER Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU) national coordinator Chanda Kabwe says it was difficult for provincial and district valuation reports to be submitted to the Auditor General because the audit was being done at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the interim report of the Auditor General on the audit of utilisation of COVID-19 resources as at 31st July, 2020, it was observed that no reports were produced to show that the implementation of COVID-19 Contingency and Response Plan was being monitored and evaluated at provincial and district levels and as a result, the performance of districts and provinces towards the fight against COVID-19 as well as the challenges faced could not be ascertained

Speaking when he appeared before the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Thursday, Kabwe said from the time he joined the public service, it was the first time he was seeing an audit at the height of an intervention.

“At the time the audit was being done, it was at the peak of the pandemic. We had a lot of cases even in the provinces and that was why some provincial and ministries such as the Lusaka Province we are talking about and home affairs could not submit the returns on time because it was at a panic of the pandemic. Who are the front liners, home affairs, these are the people who are the front liners, these are the people who are in the borders, these are the people who are trying to ensure that enforcement is done. And at the time of the audit, chair, it is my first time in my civil service career to be audited when I am responding to a calamity. It’s my first time. I have been in government from 2018, it’s my first time when we are audited during the peak of response. And you know what it means Chairperson, the panic and you have to respond and then you are being questioned, you expect not to produce the results there and then because you have two things on your plate,” Chanda said.

“So the submission by ourselves and provincial administration, the Ministry of Home Affairs are very credible, they came be questioned, the information is there and our colleagues form the Auditor General will come and look at these issues and they will advise if the submission is not correct.”

And in response to a follow up question from Chavuma UPND member of parliament Victor Lumayi, who wanted to find out if the national coordinator felt the audit was illegal, Kabwe said it was not illegal but insisted that he had never been audited at the peak of a pandemic response.

“Thank you Honorable Chairperson, I think from Honorable Lumayi I didn’t say that the audit was illegal, I said at the peak of the response to the pandemic I have not been audited before, the audits are done usually at the close of the year or that financial year. I said the submission delayed because it was at the peak of the pandemic when the provincial offices were audited chairperson it was at the peak of the pandemic and I didn’t say that the audit was illegal,” he said.

And when asked by committee Chairperson Howard Kunda why the unit had seemingly slowed the fight against the pandemic, Kabwe said more was actually being done now than during the first wave.

He promised, however, to show improvement in three days.

“Chair like I said, DMMU is doing its best. Chairperson, every Friday I am at parliament to disinfect parliament House, I am in the markets, I am in all public infrastructure, everyday my team works 24/7. I hear you Chairperson that we seem to be on the quiet side but we are doing much more even than we did last year in terms of managing the pandemic. Chair, there are a lot of professional issues around not for this meeting but we are available and we have taken note of the guidance of the Honorable Chair, Chair improvement will be seen in the next three days. Chair I submit,” said Kabwe.

Meanwhile, after continued concerns were raised on the issue of the emergency fund, Auditor General Dick Sichembe explained that despite the Ministry of Finance having the contingency fund, all resources, irrespective of the source were supposed to be channelled through the National Disaster Relief Fund.

“For the relief fund, this, according to the act which is 2010, act number 13, the crafters of this Act realised that because the disasters are cross cutting, we have to ensure that we set up this fund which will respond through different layers of structures on issues of national disaster or national calamities…so, the contingency is just budgeting for money that you can use in an event that you have unforeseen situations. On the relief fund, it is a vehicle through which now decisions will be made to ensure that we respond effectively to the national disaster. So according to the act, it provides to the DMMU act provides that parliament should be able to set aside money in the budget for the purpose of the disaster fund but that has not been done since 2010 when this was enacted but the contingency, I am made to believe it is in the budget, what is supposed to happen now, if there is any disaster the contingency fund which is in the budget at the Ministry of Finance should fund now the disaster management relief trust fund so that under that fund, because it is a comprehensive well thought mechanism on how to respond with a lot of subsidiary laws and procedures and processes how to respond to the disaster,” said Sichembe.

“That is the fund which should receive money from the contingency and now through that same vehicle, try to give funds to the needy areas and get the reports, evaluate what is happening and make the financial reports and everything and submit, there is even a submission to parliament, the accounts of that trust fund. So the trust fund is a vehicle through which all the disasters should be managed but in terms of funds, under the budget there is a contingency fund budget line which should give to any contingency problem that has arisen throughout the country. But what is being done now is the contingency is funding institutions in terms of disasters for example Ministry of Health gets the funding from the contingency fund but Ministry of Health is addressing a disaster. This disaster is supposed to be anchored under the DMMU.”