Thursday, April 05, 2007

Auditor General, Dr Miti differ

Auditor General, Dr Miti differ
By Chibaula Silwamba
Thursday April 05, 2007 [04:00]

THE Public Accounts Comm-ittee (PAC) yesterday resolved to call in the Secretary to the Cabinet to appear before it to intervene in the misunderstandings that arose between Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary Dr Simon Miti and Auditor General Annie Chifungula. This was after Chifungula and Dr Miti differed after the latter disputed most of the observations in the Auditor General’s report and tried to defend the alleged financial misappropriations in his ministry. But Chifungula said accountability in the Ministry of Health left much to be desired.

PAC chairman Charles Milupi said the proceedings could not continue with Dr Miti's submissions and subsequently sent him and his team away, saying that he would only be recalled after PAC had spoken to the Secretary to the Cabinet, Dr Joshua Kanganja.

In his submissions, Dr Miti said most of the financial irregularities highlighted in the Auditor General's report were not true. Dr Miti argued that it was not wasteful for the Ministry of Health to have procured Christmas cards for K21 million. "Contrary to the observation in the audit report that the cards were expensive, these cards were not ordinary. They were designed according to specifications and had detailed information on health matters for dissemination. Besides they were made using Poly Vinyl Chloride material which is much durable than ordinary material," he said.

But Siavonga member of parliament Daglous Syakalima said he was uncomfortable to hear Dr Miti justify the purchase of cards at K21 million when clinics needed drugs. Syakalima said donors, whom the cards were intended for, would start thinking that their money was being wasted on cards. Dr Miti also said the main parties to the contract for management of Medical Stores Limited was between the Sunrise Investments and the Ministry of Finance. "Ministry of Health was not privy to the debt swap agreement (if at all there was one) between the two parties which may have resulted in the alleged overpayment of K1.2 billion," he said.

Dr Miti also said his predecessors Dr Kashiwa Bulaya and Dr Gavin Silwamba had put in place post-paid cell phone billing system for the minister, deputy minister and the permanent secretary. He said when he took over, he wrote to the Secretary to the Cabinet to allow him to regularize the system. "Authority was only granted only for the office of the permanent secretary though with a cap at US $ 350 per month," Dr Miti said. He said thereafter, the post-paid system was discontinued for the minister and the deputy. Dr Miti said about K781 million imprest in 2005 had remained unretired by June 2006. "I wish to report that K602,188,080 has since been retired," said Dr Miti.

Following Dr Miti's disputation of the audit report, a visibly annoyed Chifungula said the Ministry of Health was a very difficult institution to audit because her officers could not easily get the information. She said it was difficult for her officers to work properly when Dr Miti and his staff were not co-operative. "Though this ministry handles billions of tax payers money, the accountability leaves much to be desired," said Chifungula.

However, Dr Miti told the PAC that the relationship between his ministry and the Auditor General's office was bad. "It's not my principle to wash dirty linen in public but what I could say is that the relationship between the Auditor General and my office has not been very conducive," he said adding: "We need to sit down with the Auditor General's office to resolve these issues."

Isoka West member of parliament Paul Sichamba observed that the situation was "volatile and I propose that we give them time." Mbabala and Chipangali members of parliament, Emmanuel Hachipuka and Vincent Mwale respectively, observed that Dr Miti's responses disputed the audit report and required time to resolve the matter themselves instead of bringing their differences to the PAC.



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home