Saturday, November 29, 2008

Financial accountability in public service cheers PAC

Financial accountability in public service cheers PAC
Written by Mwala Kalaluka

THE Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Thursday noted that Zambia is on the right track to improving financial accountability in the public service. Delivering a report of the committee on the Auditor General’s accounts of the financial year ended December 31, 2006, PAC acting chairman Ben Mwila said it was worrying however that the failure to discipline erring officers had continued.

“What was witnessed was the same old story,” Mwila said. “The report that is before this House is quite voluminous not because there were a lot of financial irregularities.” Mwila explained that the above scenario was as a result of the increased operational capacity office of the Auditor General.

He said 40 ministries, provincial administration, spending agencies and 17 foreign missions were audited during the period under review.

“What would be of interest is perhaps the movement of the figures,” Mwila said.

He said compared to 2005, the biggest spending agencies – Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education – had recorded fluctuations in the levels of misapplication and misappropriation of public funds.

Mwila said in some cases, there was a reduction in the amounts misappropriated or misapplied by the two ministries between 2005 and 2006.

He said controlling officers attributed the situation to inadequate budgetary allocations, a development that caused the varying of the funds.

“The concern of your committee is the failure by controlling officers to seek authority when they vary funds,” he said.

Mwila said another concern for PAC was the misapplication of funds from the Poverty Reduction Programme (PRP) towards meeting Recurrent Departmental Charges (RDCs).

“The Ministry of Finance and National Planning needs to put a stop to this practice forthwith,” he said.

Mwila also urged the Executive to put in place measures that would stop the increase in the amount of unretired imprest in view of the fact that the public service operates on bureaucratic systems, key of which was following rules and procedures.

“It is very difficult to discipline erring officers in the public service. As long as this remains so, all the efforts to encourage transparency and accountability will not yield tangible results,” said Mwila.

Seconding the report, Chililabombwe PF member of parliament, Esther Banda urged the government to find a better way of auditing unserviceable stores in the country’s foreign missions.

Banda also asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure that the country’s properties abroad were well secured, as political systems change time and again.

Bangweulu PF member of parliament Joseph Kasongo said the few people that were pocketing public funds would continue to undermine the government of the day if they were not dealt with sternly.

PAC held a total of 23 meetings to consider the report of the Auditor General.

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