THE Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Thursday chased away Ministry of Tourism Permanent Secretary Patrick Lungu and his team after they failed to present some verified reports from the Auditor General, as required.
The committee revealed that the Ministry of Tourism was told to submit a verified response report in April but the Office of the Auditor General only received the report in September on the deadline day, after 17:00 hours.
And in his defense, Lungu apologised for the delayed presentation of the report, stating that some of the Ministry services were spread to very remote and sometimes inaccessible places.
“Chairperson, I would like to apologise profusely for delaying. Like highlighted by the Director Finance, it is the nature of the Ministry where services are spread in very remote and sometimes inaccessible places. To get this information together within the period we were required to was a little bit of a challenge. There is no excuse I apologise for that,” he said.
But Nalolo member of parliament Imanga Wamunyima argued the Ministry of Tourism’s conduct was unacceptable and would not be tolerated.
“What you have presented to this committee today is unacceptable by all standards. This is a very serious issue and as a committee, we cannot mince our words because there is nothing serious about this report. You cannot come to this committee and present things that have not been verified by a constitutional office. Therefore, it is in the interest of having proper accountability for you as a team to re-look at what you are trying to present here. These resources deserve to be used prudently and where there is need to question the presence of accountability and possible fraud, the committee will not tolerate that,” said Wamunyima.
However, in his follow up response, Lungu changed his position and argued that the Ministry actually submitted the audit queries report within the stipulated 14 days would provide evidence to that respect.
“Let me start by assuring the committee that we do not take your work lightly. We respect this committee and we will do everything within our power to provide the answers that you require. Let me place on record that despite the changes we faced as a Ministry, everything concerning this audit was submitted within the stipulated 14 days we will be providing evidence in that respect concerning the report,” Lungu said.
Meanwhile, nominated member of parliament Likando Mufalali said the Public Accounts Committee was not going to entertain the ministry’s laissez-faire attitude towards the Auditor General’s office.
“Controlling officer, with your team, especially the Director of Finance, do you respect the rules that are set out for you when an audit query arises so that you meet the deadline? I realise you were given ample time to do your work, that is 14 days to do your submission and you come after 17:00 hours with your submission and you expect those that were supposed to knock off to start looking at your report? Are you really serious as a Ministry? That, controlling officer, does not show seriousness in you and your subordinates. You cannot continue in that fashion. The Ministry needs to realise the importance of the Auditor General’s office,” said Mufalali.
“As a country, we need to be serious if we have to achieve and deliver on behalf of the Zambian people. This kind of attitude where you want to come at the last minute and you expect to look at your report I think is uncalled for. Chair, we cannot start looking at the report which only came here late. The response from the Director Finance that it is because of lack of transport is uncalled for. I do not believe that you did not have transport during that period. This committee and this house require serious minds and business as usual should end. We cannot continue with thus. My submission is the controlling officer to leave because we cannot continue with this kind of behavior.”
Meanwhile, Chavuma member of parliament Victor Lumayi said the committee had information that the Ministry of Tourism did not take the Auditor General’s Office seriously.
“If the information brought before this committee has not been verified by the Auditor General, it becomes difficult for this Committee to believe what you have submitted. So these reports are appearing as audit queries because you submitted your responses late. You submitted before this committee and apologised therefore this committee felt it will not do justice citizens to go ahead to interrogate your report has not been verified by the Auditor General. We have information that you do not take the Auditor General’s Office seriously. So this committee is at pains because there a lot of financial frauds and loopholes in your report. This committee is moving your Ministry to allow the Auditor General to verify your report before you appear in this committee,” said Lumayi.
Acting PAC chairperson Warren Mwambazi then informed Lungu that the committee had decided to send he and his team away in order for them to complete their interactions with the Office of the Auditor General and return with a verified report.