FINANCE Minister Dr Bwalya Ng’andu says government does not appoint party cadres as board members of parastatals bodies.

The Finance Minister was debating the Report of the Parliamentary Committee on Parastatal Bodies on the Report of the Auditor General on the accounts of Parastatal Bodies and other Statutory Institutions for the financial year ended December 31, 2018, on Friday.

Dr Ng’andu said the assertion that government was appointing cadres as board members in parastatal bodies was not true, adding that the selection of board members was strictly professional.

He further said government would ensure that the Auditor General’s office gets more resources once their situation becomes better.

“The House will recall that when I presented the budget to this House, one of the points that I made was that the resource constraint had meant that a lot of government departments and agencies were not funded to the tune that we wanted to be funded. So, the fact that the Auditor General’s office is not being funded adequately is not for lack of wanting, but is the reflection of that. Currently the resource constraints only allow us to give the office what we have given so far. When our situation becomes better we will make sure that the Auditor General’s office gets more resources, so that we are able to carry out its work. The other point I would like to respond to is the failure to appoint board members in a timely manner. The fact of the matter is that government tries and the parastatal bodies in particular, try as much as possible to appoint board members. As soon as one group of board members expires another one is appointed. There may be a delay in some cases and if those delays do exist there can only be regretted. It is not true, it is not factual to say that most parastatals don’t have boards, that is not factual,” Dr Ng’andu said.

“The other comment is that ‘we are appointing cadres to these boards and that is causing a problem’. Mr Speaker, the process of appointing board members is very strict. I have members who are appointed by statutes, they represent the law association, they represent some other professional bodies like the accountants. So, most of these board members are very professional and the efforts are made to appoint key people who can deliver the mandate of these boards. This is key, because we do understand that if we want parastatals to convert into proper businesses which is the whole reason why government invests in these entities, we must have a group of professional men and women who can carry the mandate.”

And debating earlier, chairperson of the committee and Msanzala PF member of parliament Peter Daka bemoaned the failure by the executive to appoint board members of parastatal bodies on time.

“The committee has made a number of observations in this report and I will only outline a few. Mr Speaker, the committee observes that failure to appoint boards and governing council members timely by the respective Ministers is an over reaching challenge in the management of parastatals bodies and other statutory institutions. The committee further observed that Ministers who are appointing authorities for boards and governing councils are not answerable to anybody for these appointments. There is also no time frame in which boards and governing councils members are to be appointed as result. There is no process to hold them accountable in an event that they are unjustifiably delaying the boards or governing councils,” he said.

“Mr Speaker, another factor affecting parastatals bodies is poor funding. The committee is of the view that a single treasury account is not helping these entities to perform effectively. Especially for those who raise their own income. The committee recommends that the Executive should consider reintroducing the appropriation in aid to allow such entities to retain at least a portion of the revenue collected from their cooperations.”

And Mazabuka UPND member of parliament Gary Nkombo wondered why government was deliberately delaying to appoint board members in most parastatal bodies.

“The chairman of the committee, honourable Peter Daka, has indicated that there have been challenges to audit these parastatals owing to certain reasons. One of them is the issue of Ministers not appointing boards and also the absence of financial statements, which to me in a business environment can only be termed as deliberate. Mr Speaker, at the point when PF took over government in 2011, they established what was Indeco then I think or ZIMCO [into] IDC. The Industrial Development Cooperation is the one that is overseeing the performance of all these parastatals bodies. So one will ask, what has been the function of IDC in supervising and making sure that accountability happens in these parastatals? The chairman of the committee also indicates this whole act destroys the very essence of Parliament that being the oversight function on the Executive. To me, this is a report just full of lamentations and an indictment to the committee. The committee system is heart and soul to any Parliament,” Nkombo said.

“So, after this report then what? What is the remedy of such lamentations? Where we are told the Ministers must now be given a time frame within which to constitute these boards. Time frame given by who? It means that there is some element of laxity or neglect on the part of Ministers to appoint these boards so that the particular parastatals bodies can function accordingly. So, as a government they must answer to these issues that the committee brings out. Why are Ministers failing to appoint boards? Is it deliberate? Is it indolence? To me, this report does not bring any hope.”

Meanwhile, Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo said government was not pleased to see qualified civil servants being removed from the civil service on account of not abiding to the Financial Management Act.

“Mr Speaker, I can’t agree with members that committee reports will be put on the shelves and nothing is taken. This government has been very serious in dealing with the Auditor General’s Report. Here in this August House, under your leadership Sir, we have seen how much accountability has been scaled up. The public are able to follow your committees when it is sitting and scrutinising the Auditor General’s Report. Recommendations that are made are acted upon by the Executive. Measures have been put in place by the law enforcement agencies to move in and act on the Reports for the first time in this country, things have changed. It does not please us in the Executive to see qualified civil servants being removed from the civil service on account of not abiding to the Financial Management Act. It doesn’t please us, but we have no choice because we want to make sure that the number of audit queries just as acknowledged by the chairperson of the public accounts committee are coming down as a result of the actions being taken by the Executive,” he said.

“So to try and politick here around this report and not following the contents of the reports is an unfair way of doing Parliamentary business. I want to urge my colleagues that before they take to the floor they take time to reflect on the contents of the Report so that they are debating from an informed position. Government certainly takes action by putting boards in place and to ensure that these boards are composed of competent individuals and gender balanced. So I want to urge my colleagues to understand and acknowledge where the government has done something positive, we acknowledge. Let us just not politics because this season is very interesting.”