AUDITOR General Dr Dick Sichembe has disclosed that his office receives various threats every day, including those aimed to harm or kill through juju.
And Dr Sichembe says it is frustrating when no action is taken on cases that have been cited in various Auditor Generals’ reports.
Speaking during a Media Sensitisation Workshop Programme on ‘Understanding the work of the Auditor-General’, Friday, Dr Sichembe disclosed that the last time his office issued a report, owls appeared at his office and would still return after being chased.
“Talking about the threat, you can imagine auditors getting these threats, what of the head of the institution? The threats are every day, to harm, to kill you and to tempt you with a lot of things. We are very aware of the job description we took and I encourage my officers. Sometimes as a head, I do not even tell them what I go through because maybe they can become very scared and maybe feel de-motivated. We are alive to the fact of the job that we accepted and we are up to the challenge. We have got a very strong team of prayer warriors. We put God first like the footballers say ‘lesa pantanshi’. Last time we issued a report, we used to have owls at my office and they would chase them but they come back. The following day you would find someone has washed medicine just at the entrance of the office,” he said.
“The following day you can receive a call to say ‘I am calling you from this village and people have brought your pictures that we should make the rains fall.’ Such kinds of things happen in real time. So if you are not strong, you would say no because at the end of the day, on the other part and action is not being taken and you have these threats, it is a challenging job. It is a challenging office and very powerful office, if used properly we can address a lot of things So it is very frustrating sometimes but working together, I think we have synergies and we will be able to rise to the occasion.”
Dr Sichembe said he had not experienced any interference with regard to his line of work.
“I can speak for myself and as you are aware, I have just been in the office for one and half years now from the Ministry of Finance. I have not had any interference in terms of what we should do and how we should do it but we have requests. The constitution does not allow us to be directed or be subject to any authority or any person but we receive requests, not directives. We might have a problem under social cash transfer, for example, ‘we need the Office of the Auditor General to do a detailed audit and come up with findings’. On that one, we respond. However, before we respond we have a very strong quality control system at the office to ensure that what we are looking at is something that is not vindictive or personal,” he said.
“So we do receive requests but not directives. I have not had any interference in terms of directives that ‘do this or you will have consequences’. In other countries, citizens hold their government to account. If an institution which has been created by yourselves through the constitution produces the report, do not wait for someone to act. If you do not act, do I expect my neighbor to act? It is high time we act as individuals, raise the voice and collectively have synergies. So that is what we want to ensure to start happening.”
Dr Sichembe said it was frustrating when no action was taken on cases that had been cited in various Auditor General’s reports.
“We get very frustrated if we see no action being undertaken. These audits are not cost neutral but government spends money. We are also part and parcel of the culprits who spend money but the expenditure that we incur is to bring people to account. If there is expenditure and no one is acting, then it becomes wasteful expenditure. So we feel de-motivated and we do not feel sometimes encouraged after incurring that expenditure on government, you go out there to find wrong doing and no one takes action. We feel frustrated because we want to see a situation where we see improvement because of our work in a lot of things,” he said.
“We have got values in the office and the benefit of our office is to the citizens. What is it that we want to add to the citizens and what is our relevance to the citizens? So the relevance we feel we bring these things to the fore and people are held accountable and people are punished, there is improvement in financial management and we feel motivated. So there are times when my officers, myself included, feel like this is not the way things are supposed to be. That is why as the media, you have a big role to play to motivate us because of the issues we bring and hold those accountable. So it could be frustrating.”
Dr Sichembe said his office would use available resources at Provincial level to carry out audit activities to ensure prudent management of the Constituency Development Funds.
“There is a provision in the constitution to decentralise the office to the levels of district. We are present at all provincial headquarters. However, it is an issue of resources and we have been engaging with the treasury to ensure that we are present at the districts more especially that now there is a change to the management of financial resources. We now have pronouncements to move money to the constituencies. That requires our presence at the district like yesterday. With these pronouncements I think they will be able to give us the resources or approve the structure of our office to be present at district level,” he said.
“However, we are also aware that government has no funds. Since we are present at the provinces, we will do everything within our powers and the resources that are available to use the resources at the province to undertake the audit activities in the districts. Ultimately, resources allow, we should be present in the districts. With the thrust that has come with the new administration, I think that will be considered by the Ministry of Finance to enhance the presence of our office at districts and that is not negotiable.”
Meanwhile, Dr Sichembe said the final COVID-19 Audit Report would be released by the end of this month.
“The report that we released on COVID-19 was an interim. The reason we had released an interim was because of elevated risk and that report acted as a deterrent for further abuse of resources. From that time, we started working on the subsequent issues that were related to the expenditure for the COVID-19. We have now done the report of the COVID-19 as of the end of December 2020 and it should be issued before the end of November this year. So the report to cover all the 12 months period from the last time we issued that report will be ready by the end of this month,” said Dr Sichembe.