HEALTH Minister Dr Jonas Chanda says allegations of misappropriation of funds are still being investigated by the Auditor General who has been tasked to conduct a forensic audit of the Ministry of Health.

And Dr Chanda says the Ministry of Health did not misappropriate K6.3 billion in COVID-19 funds.

Responding to a question from Kalabo Central UPND member of parliament Chinga Miyutu, who asked whether the misappropriation of over K6.3 billion COVID-19 funds would not hamper the fight against the pandemic, Dr Chanda said the Auditor General had been tasked to undertake a forensic audit on the utilisations of the COVID-19 funds donated to the Ministry.

“The House may wish to note that the interim Report on the Audit of the Auditor General on the utilisation of COVID-19 resources is before your committee. And per established Parliamentary practice and procedure, the details of the observation and recommendations of the committee will be known after the Report has been adopted by the House. The House has to do its oversight function. In addition to that, the House may wish to note that the Auditor General has been requested by the Public Accounts Committee to undertake a forensic audit on the utilisation of the COVID-19 resources at the Ministry of Health. I want to assure the nation that His Excellency President Edgar Lungu has demanded for total transparency and accountability in this forensic audit. The Public Accounts Committee is actually interrogating this matter,” Dr Chanda said.

“Allegations of misappropriation are being investigated through forensic audits and through Parliamentary procedures through the committee and the reports will be tabled and the Executive will respond accordingly. Government has different arms and institutions for example the Ministry of Health is not the prosecuting agency, is not an investigating agency so that is why I have assured the nation that the President has demanded for total transparency and accountability. So once the report is tabled here institutions that are tasked to follow certain issues the Zambia police, DEC, ACC they don’t need to be asked by someone because they are established by acts of Parliament.”

Dr Chanda refuted reports that the Ministry of Health misappropriated over K6.3 billion COVID-19 funds, saying none of the donations which were made were in cash.

“Mr Speaker, may I start by clarifying that the misappropriation of K6.3 billion of COVID-19 funds, in that the alleged monies were pledges made by cooperating partners to the Zambian government through the Ministry of Finance. As you are aware, on the 31st July 2020 the Auditor General’s Interim Report established that cooperating partners made commitments and pledges to the government amounting to K6,399,286,226. However, the Report also states that the Ministry of Finance could then not disclose the amounts received against the pledged amounts because they did not have the information. The money pledged was to be utilised by respective implementation units and was earmarked to be channeled through institutions such as the World Health Organisation WHO, the United Nations Children’s Agency Fund (UNICEF) and non governmental organizations. The cooperating partners did not envisage to disburse this support through the Ministry but to undertake consultations with the government on materials that were to be purchased and supplied to government,” said Dr Chanda.

“Further, the cooperating partners indicated that the support was not going to be provided as direct finances to government but as in form of support of materials. On the material date of the report, the 31st July, 2020, the stated amounts remained pledges as no amounts or finances or materials had been disbursed to government by any of the cooperating partners. As of 30th December, 2020 out of the K6,399,286,226 pledged by cooperating partners, cooperating partners had informed the Ministry of Finance that K1.9 billion worth of materials had been disbursed. The disbursed materials were in form of machinery, equipments, water treatment chemicals and other forms of materials that have been disbursed mainly through the World Health Organization, UNICEF and NGOs.”