THE Ministry of Information and Media yesterday struggled to explain to the Public Accounts Committee how 95 officers who were on payroll but not on the staff returns drew salaries in amounts totalling K13,294,445.
And PAC chairperson Warren Mwambazi has cautioned Directors to avoid misleading Controlling Officers by submitting inaccurate information as they appear before the Committee.
The latest Auditor General’s report has indicated that a comparison of the payroll and staff returns for the Ministry for the period under review revealed that 95 officers who drew salaries in amounts totalling K13,294,445 were on payroll but not on the staff returns.
The report further indicated that as at July 31, 2022, the Ministry had not accounted for the officers.
And appearing before the PAC, Wednesday, Ministry of Information and Media Permanent Secretary Kennedy Kalunga attributed the query to an administrative lapse.
“I wish to submit that 95 officers who drew salaries in amounts totalling K13,294,445 accounted for as indicated. The cause was due to an administrative lapse on the part of the institution to have not reconciled the payroll and staff returns timely. The staff returns and the payroll have since been reconciled. Further, two from Finance and two from Human Resource and Administration Departments have been trained as end-users to address the administrative lapses,” Kalunga said.
But Solwezi West UPND member of parliament Nicholas Mukumbi wanted to find out why evidence showed that two officers had not been accounted for, contrary to what was being submitted.
“In your response you are saying that 95 officers who drew salaries in amounts totalling K13,294,445 have been accounted for. So all 95 have been accounted for? But when you go through your appendix, we discover that two officers are appearing as unknown. So how have you accounted for everyone when others still remain unknown?” he asked.
And in response, Ministry of Information and Media Director Human Resource Greatson Chipalo said the two officers could not be traced.
“Indeed, it is indicated that the two are not accounted for. We need to go back and trace them,” he said.
Meanwhile, Chinsali PF member of parliament Kalalwe Mukosa wondered whether the Ministry was in order to submit a different verbal response which was not matching with the submitted documents.
“Is he saying this submitted document is not a true position? Because the documents are saying all 95 have been accounted for. But then he is saying ‘two are unknown’. So is he saying this submission is not factual and incorrect? Would you like to withdraw that information so that you go back and verify? This Committee does not tolerate being misled. I find it difficult to accept the responses by the HR,” he said.
And Chipalo admitted that two officers had not been accounted for.
“As indicated in our report, the 93 are accounted for. And we indicate that the two are not accounted for. These officers are no longer getting their salaries, we blocked their salaries,” said Chipalo.
And when asked to provide evidence of this submission, the Ministry’s acting Director Finance Christopher Chibesa said there was no documentation attached as evidence.
“There is no payslip attached,” he said.
And Nalolo PNUP member of parliament Imanga Wamunyima said the Ministry did not make a correct submission by indicating that they had accounted for 95 officers.
“We are finding it hard to believe what you are saying. The best you can say is that you accounted for 93, instead of saying 95. We cannot even accept that salaries have been blocked because it is not in this submission. The Director HR is making his own new submission, different from the controlling officer’s. We are receiving unverified information and it does not help the Committee,” he said.
And Mukumbi cautioned that the witnesses need to understand the documents being submitted before the Committee.
“We hope that you have gone through this submission that you have brought before this Committee and you have understood it. Rather than giving us information then you say ‘I think there was a mistake somewhere, we need to go back and reconcile’. This is a very serious Committee. We go through these things. Some of us are former civil servants so we know what we are talking about. So help the PS answering questions as they are given,” said Mukumbi.
Meanwhile, Mwambazi cautioned the Directors to submit correct information before the Committee.
“Consequences cannot be over emphasised. We don’t accept speculation in this Committee. Director HR, take note. We wouldn’t want to invoke certain provisions of the law then tomorrow you say ‘we are not good people’. If you don’t know, you say ‘you don’t know’, just like your colleague did. If you say something without evidence, take that as a caution, as we proceed, do not mislead the PS. We warn Directors here not to mislead the PS. So Director HR, I want you to withdraw that statement. PS we want to know your position,” he said.
And in response, Kalunga asked PAC to allow his ministry to come back with accurate information.
“I will answer in the affirmative that we withdraw then we come back and submit the accurate and factual information [on this query],” he said.
Meanwhile, Chadiza PF member of parliament Jonathan Daka wanted to find out Kalunga’s substantive position before being appointed as Permanent Secretary.
“In view of what is being discussed here, especially the way responses are coming from your team, I would like to know what was your substantive position before being appointed PS?” asked Daka.
In response, Kalunga said he used to run his own firm.
“On the question of what was my substantive position before I was appointed PS, I was running my own firm,” said Kalunga.