DISASTER Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU) acting National Coordinator Joshua Kamanya says lack of internal auditors at the unit increases its risk of embarrassment due to having various audit queries being cited in the Auditor General’s report.

And DMMU Director Finance Dr Mary Namusokwe says since its inception, DMMU has never had an internal auditor, until recently.

But the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) did not take kindly to these excuses, resolving to chase away the DMMU officials and ordering them to return in seven days’ time with proper responses.

Speaking when he appeared before PAC, Kamanya said DMMU could not do without a strong internal audit function, looking at how much money was being handled.

“DMMU is a very lean institution and not until 2020, when we had a few people coming through when the Treasury gave us authority to employ. For instance, we are depending on the service of one internal auditor and the risk is quite high. I think the number we would need to ‘fight’ internal audit function is actually three internal auditors. We are engaging Cabinet Office so that we have at least three internal auditors so that we strengthen our internal control so that these things do not come to our desks after external auditors do their work. We will also put in place audit committees to ensure that we strengthen internal audit. We also hope that such cases that embarrass like this will not happen again,” Kamanya said.

And DMMU Director Finance Dr Mary Namusokwe said since its inception, DMMU has never had an internal auditor until recently.

“This committee may wish to know that from the inception of DMMU, there has never been any internal auditor employed at DMMU. When we saw the issue of queries coming up, that is how we came up with the initiative of employing at least one person stationed at DMMU as a mitigation factor. So I am pretty sure that with this, there is so much will from cabinet office to bring this issue of audit query to an end. We may not be given that treasury authority at once to employ auditors, but the will is there,” she said.

Kantanshi member of parliament Anthony Mumba, however, wondered why it had taken six years for DMMU to facilitate for the completion of a infectious Disease Hospital.

“Six years ago, there must have been huge motivation as to why the Construction of the infectious Disease Quarantine, Control and Treatment Centre was made. But what I do not seem to understand is why six years on, this has not been completed. I do not think that the reason will be lack of funds. Can you explain to this committee, maybe this project is no longer useful to you as an institution and you have ended up spending money on behalf of the Zambian people wrongly? You have even gone to add the cost of price escalation in which we can buy a lot for the Zambian people. Can you confirm to this committee that it is no longer a priority to you?” he asked.

In response, Kamanya said DMMU had written to the Treasury to request for the release of funds towards the completion of the hospital, which was at 85 per cent completion.

“The construction of the hospital can facilitate all diseases including COVID-19 and in the infectious diseases. We have done our part as DMMU to release for funds. In fact, even Ministry of Health has been pushing to ensure that it is done on time. With the passage of time, prices of building materials escalate and we would want this hospital to be finished like yesterday. We also wrote to the Ministry of Finance to release funds so that we finish this hospital,” he said.

Meanwhile, nominated member of parliament Likando Mufalali questioned DMMU on its delay to deliver relief food to eight provinces.

“You are an emergency unit and your contractors are expected to deliver on time. The purchase of this mealie meal was made because there was an emergency but in this case, Pembe failed to deliver on time and 16 months later, that is when they delivered. Was this an emergency or it was just another way of filling the fixture which they had with the DMMU? What are the penalties for failure to deliver on time?” asked Mufalali.

In response, Kamanya said the institution was establishing a system to allow cash humanitarian assistance, noting that this would cut expenditure by 40 percent.

“I would say that it is a situation that borders on internal audit. It is not just Pemebe that supplies to DMMU but we have other millers in Lusaka, Copperbelt, Western, Luapula and Southern Provinces. Going by all these, Pembe was given a huge chunk of maize grain to grind. With functioning internal audit in place, we would avoid such embarrassments such as this one. Going forward, we are devising new system as DMMU such that in areas where there are vulnerable people with existing well functioning markets and food is accessible and is readily available, we will resort to cash humanitarian assistance. By doing so, we are going to cut expenditure by 40 per cent,” he said.

Eventually, Public Accounts Committee chairperson Warren Mwambazi resolved that Kamanya and his team be sent away and return after seven days with some satisfactory answers.

“We will allow you to go back, do your proper report like you have been guided and submit it to our clerk then we will sit as a committee to look at it and we will advise you. We have told you to go and revisit this information because everything is not tallying. We want to be fair with you and you have been given the mandate to spend all the money on behalf of the Zambian people and us who are representing them. In our audit trail, things like dates, receipts should speak for themselves but yours are not guiding us properly. You will then be allowed to submit your report again and we will give you seven days and I think that is enough time. You have all the time and we will look at it as a committee and then we will follow us afterwards,” said Mwambazi.