THE Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has directed former Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU) National Coordinator Chanda Kabwe to appear before them Committee today, failure to which, he will be compelled to appear before the Committee on Privileges, Absences, and Support Services to exculpate himself.
And Auditor General Dr Dick Sichembe says all former officers at DMMU are compelled by law to clarify on the queries, stating that individual benefits were driving the motivation to misappropriate public resources.
But Kabwe has maintained that he has been sick, adding that he has not received any form of communication from PAC about his need to appear before them.
Meanwhile, PAC has heard that DMMU awarded contracts in the sum of K224,503,250 within four months to 21 suppliers whose names and nature of business did not relate to medical supplies.
In an interview, Tuesday, PAC chairperson Warren Mwambazi said Kabwe needed to appear before the committee to account for how he appropriated the public resources on behalf of Zambians.
“We have instructed the current DMMU national coordinator Dr Pollen to ensure that he re-emphasises that Mr Kabwe appears before this Committee tomorrow. He has been spoken to and we hope and pray that he can come and appear before this Committee tomorrow and answer the questions which are being raised by the Committee. If not, we will still ensure that through the Speaker, he is written to and he can appear before the Privileges Committee to exculpate himself as to why he has not come,” said Mwambazi.
“If you look at the Public Finance Act of 2018, the current and former accounting officers still need to come and appear before the committee in terms of accountability. So there is nothing like he is not now serving but he needs to come and account for how he appropriated the public resources on behalf of the Zambian people.”
And speaking to journalists, Dr Sichembe said all former officers at DMMMU were compelled to clarify on the queries.
“If you look at the Public Finance Management Act of 2018, the Act gives a provision of powers to lift the veil of incorporation. In the past, we have been saying this is an office but we can see that some of the decisions are not in the interest of the office. It is individual interests making those decisions. The architecture of that law is to provide the veil of an officer to be able to bring the people who made those decisions to account. So if we are going to make very good progress as the Public Accounts Committee, as a country, our recommendations as Office of the Auditor General is to ensure that we bring back the officers who made decisions in the past,” said Dr Sichembe.
“Some decisions were not in the best interest of the office. They use that as long as the office is there, but did that person make decisions based on the interest of the office? No, it was just some individual benefits that were driving that motivation. So for the reform, we need to ensure that we bring those people. For DMMU to have very effective answers about what was going on, we need to bring the people that were there to answer and tell their story. It is also in their best interest to ensure that they give clarity on the issues that are being raised.”
But when contacted via telephone by his successor Dr Gabriel Pollen, in the presence of the media, Kabwe insisted that he had been sick and that he had not received any form of communication from the PAC.
And when asked if he could be available to appear before PAC, Kabwe said he did not know when he would conclude his medical checkups, adding that the PAC knew the right procedures of contacting him.
However, this did not sit well with nominated member of Parliament Likando Mufalali who said Kabwe was openly defying the call to appear before the Committee.
“We are wondering why the former NC is not available. I think it is a serious concern. No public officer or former public officer should be able to demean this Committee by openly defying the call to appear before this Committee. I think we need seriousness. Can we assign people for the last minute to get hold of the former NC so that he can come on board?” asked Mufalali.
“We are not going to accept such kind of behaviour before this Committee or any other person who wants to demean this Committee. This is serious business. We want people to account and answer for the decisions they made. We heard yesterday the decisions were coming from the top to cut on some of the procedures. They need to account.”
Meanwhile, during the PAC meeting, Tuesday, it was heard that DMMU awarded contracts in the sum of K224,503,250 within four months to 21 suppliers whose names and nature of business did not relate to medical supplies.
In response, DMMU Chief Accountant Isaac Nkhoma justified that a company only needed to be registered to relevant institutions in order to qualify as a supplier of medical supplies.
“You do not give a contract to a person or company that you know. The prerequisite for a company to be awarded a contract in Zambia, they must be registered with PACRA, valid tax clearance and must be registered with ZPPA. Did they qualify to get a contract? Yes they did and all the procedures to award them contracts, be it K51 million or K1 million, they qualified. The Ministry of Health was running out of swabs and they needed 1 million swabs and that is the genesis of the K51 million contracts. If there was any delay of one or two weeks, the country was not going to do any tests on Covid,” said Nkhoma.
But Nalolo PNUP member of Parliament Imanga Wamunyima argued that the Committee was being misled because a company needed to have a pharmaceutical license to be able to supply medical supplies.
And former DMMU Director Operations Joshua Kamanya admitted that Kabwe only made radio and TV announcements as a form of advertisement to call out possible suppliers who could supply facemasks to DMMU.
“I remember very well that during the time procurement of facemasks was going on, the response was very bad because that was an emergency. During that time, world economies had collapsed and air and road transport were not operating well. The flow of goods into the country was actually a challenge. So even those tasked to supply facemasks had difficulties. This is what prompted the National Coordinator to go to radio stations as well ZNBC. I think if we can contact media houses, we should be able to provide evidence. I am aware that the National Coordinator called for whoever is able to make facemasks to produce them and supply. So it became open. I am aware about those announcements that were made to invite people to supply facemasks to DMMU,” said Kamanya.
In conclusion, the Committee said it would make recommendations based on the fact that DMMU did not follow the right procurement procedures to identify suppliers.