FINANCE and National Planning Minister Dr Situmbeko Musokotwane says government will be leaning heavily on police and other investigative agencies to ensure that they deal with revelations of wasteful expenditure in the Auditor General’s Report.

The Auditor General’s Report on Accounts of the Republic for the financial year ended December 31, 2020, revealed that wasteful expenditure among ministries increased from K3.7 million in 2019 to K1.4 billion in 2020.

In an interview, Dr Musokotwane said investigative wings should do their work without fail and ensure that those found misusing government resources were brought to book.

“The general principle is that when public resources are wasted, we hand over reports of that nature to the police for appropriate action. We will be leaning heavily on the police because we don’t want things to appear as if politicians are the ones in charge of hunting people down for political reasons. The bodies designated for that are the investigative agencies. Our job is to make sure the investigative agencies do their job, if they don’t, we will be on them, we will be on them. So that is my answer, I am talking in general terms myself,” said Dr Musokotwane.

“So the police, we are going to be [leaning] heavily on them, whether it is someone harassing other people in the markets, whether it is someone misusing government property, whether it is someone stealing government money or property. The police must do their work if they don’t, then they are failing and that is where political leadership comes in.”

And Transparency International Zambia (TI-Z) president Sampa Kalungu reiterated the need for the Auditor General to be given more power to prosecute or discipline public officials found misusing public resources.

“Most pleasing is what the President said. He said if the Auditor General needs more resources to do more work, to avail more of the misapplication, misappropriation, misallocation and the things that Ministries usually do, the President said the Office of the Auditor General can just say so and they will provide resources so that they can safeguard the resources of the nation. For us, that is a positive thing. We hope that as we have been advocating, that the Auditor General can even be given or enhanced power or mandate to not only uncover but to go and institute other measures such as even prosecuting when possible and other measures that can constitute administrative discipline,” he said.

“So, we will even want to push that the President gives more biting power to the Auditor General’s office. When you find something has been misused and misapplied, if you are a public officer and you go against the mandate, you should be punished for that. Therefore, the move by the President to say ‘this document would have to go to the Public Prosecutors Office’, that is a very applaudable move. I hope it can be done not only rhetoric, I hope this can be done and people can start seeing that particular officer abused, misapplied and he has been punished. When we start getting to those levels, then we will start getting towards enhanced resource management systems.”

He said it was saddening that huge amounts of money were not being used according to budget specifications.

“So, this is quite pleasing but of course it is sad that such big amounts of money are not being used according to the mandate that institutions have. Where they use money recklessly in the way that they want to disregard the rules, the guidelines that are there in expenditure and usage of money, that is not acceptable. That is a system that renders the whole financial process and the whole financial system to indiscipline, corruption and abuse of resources. So, we hope that the culprits that are involved in all these should find themselves being questioned and if possible punitive measures be taken on such officers,” said Kalungu.