KASEMPA UPND member of parliament Brenda Tambatamba says it is frustrating that the Ministry of Health does not take the guidance given to them by the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee seriously.
And Tambatamba says transferring people who are found wanting to other ministries or government departments is merely transferring problems.
In an interview, Tambatamba said irregularities at the Ministry of Health were perpetual.
“There is a moment when we get extremely frustrated especially because when you have met a grouping like the Ministry of Health, it has been one of our perpetual witnesses that is coming with irregularities, findings of all sorts, they have appeared before not only in this PAC committee even in the past. So one would hope that the guidance, the constructive critique that is provided to them is something that they take seriously, take it back to the management consultative platforms and generate actions, plans to resolve in a long term fashion the issues that continue to bug them in managing public finances that are given to them to provide services to the nation. Yet you find that next year, they are back with the same issues. So it is blatant that this guidance, the counsel that is provided at public accounts is never taken seriously,” Tambatamba said.
“They are not even paying attention to the public finance act no matter what amendments you make to it, the people just ignore it, the ZPPA act in as far as payments, procuring supplies to deliver is concerned, but they throw them away. There is impunity that makes one feel the way I felt yesterday (Monday), the way all the members of the committee are feeling, the way members of the public are feeling. Here we are we are dying, covid is blowing us away and you expect that they will be behaving in a more responsible manner given that this is an emergency situation, it affects everyone but to no avail.”
She said misappropriation of funds at that ministry was an emergency which needed to be addressed.
“I am appealing to all the controlling officers in all the ministries in particular this case for Covid-19 interim audit that the guidance which is provided on how to apply the monies that have been misappropriated to a particular cause, this is an emergency. Let us have value for money, if they don’t do that, we shall perish. If this money goes to the causes that are other than saving the lives of the Zambians, we will die. This is why we feel so frustrated and urging the Ministry of Health permanent secretary directors, every staff has a role to ensure that this pandemic is treated with a seriousness it deserves in the way we apply the resources that have been allocated for this cause,” she said.
And Tambatamba said transferring erring officers was not the solution.
“It is not something for the PS to say ‘I will just transfer you.’ What are you doing? You are just transferring the same problems. This character will continue doing what they have known all their lives to steal from the Zambian people, to waste the public resources, they will take it to another place. So it is the same public finance coming from the same treasury that is simply transferring the problem. They must interpret the disciplinary code to the letter because it prescribes what the punishment is for every conduct. We must govern with accountability in mind, with understanding the repercussions of not doing what we are supposed to do,” Tambatamba said.
“So transferring people is not the solution. You are transferring the problem and you are broadening the whole culture of these misdeeds. It may be in one place where it was quarantined now you spread it and it becomes contagious. We call upon the office of the Secretary to the Cabinet where there is PSMD to work very closely with the office of the Secretary to the Treasury to ensure that the public finances are protected from the crooked. We don’t have a shortage of personnel who are able to do these jobs and deliver them to the Zambian people with excellence. So those who are found wanting must be let off to go away and bring in people who can work.”
She urged law enforcement agencies to take interest in the mess at MoH.
“At the end of the day, you can bring in as many people as possible but if you are not ensuring the enforcement part within the administrative set up and enforcement from the side of the law enforcement agencies, then it becomes a culture. I call upon the arm of the law to also take interest. They don’t have to be called upon by the Auditor General or anybody when this information is in public domain, the law enforcement officers should be able to read and determine where they need to investigate and at which stage they think they can call in the office of the prosecution,” said Tambatamba.
On Monday, the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee heard that the Ministry of Health has so far accrued K2.4 billion COVID-19 related debt.
And Ministry of Health permanent secretary in charge of technical services Dr Kennedy Malama had a tough time providing satisfactory answers to various queries regarding the irregular awarding of supply contracts, telling the committee that one of the officers who was responsible for that had since been demoted and transferred to another ministry.
Meanwhile, PAC also learnt how one of the suppliers delivered KN95 masks rather than N95 masks which were stipulated in the contract, resulting in a loss of millions of Kwacha which has not yet been recovered.