Friday, July 16, 2010

EU maintains stance on withheld 25 million Euros for roads

EU maintains stance on withheld 25 million Euros for roads
By Chibaula Silwamba
Fri 16 July 2010, 14:10 CAT

Well-placed sources in the Ministry of Works and Supply have revealed that the European Union (EU) headquarters has vowed never to resume funding to Zambia’s road sector until the government implements recommendations that the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) will make on the RDA audit.

And European Union (EU) delegation to Zambia confirmed that it was looking forward to the recommendations in the PAC final report.

The government sources revealed that the EU, which is the largest grant donor to Zambia’s road sector, has withheld a grant of 25 million Euros (about K161 billion) to the sector since last year.

The sources said the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, had mandated its Zambia country office to closely follow PAC deliberations and the recommendations it would make to the government for action to safeguard public funds.

“We don’t foresee funding from the EU anytime soon. The EU headquarters in Brussels is following the issues concerning RDA closely. The EU has indicated that they will not resume funding until after the Zambian government has convincingly taken action on the financial problems at RDA and they EU are monitoring PAC deliberations, they are quite happy with PAC’s scrutiny and they want the government to take action based on PAC recommendations,” the government official said.

“So, as officials charged with the responsibility of improving road infrastructure, we are worried because there isn’t sufficient money to carry-out our mandate. We hope the government will implement recommendations from PAC so that the EU resumes funding the road sector.”

And sources at the Ministry of Finance and National Planning confirmed the steadfast stance taken by the cooperating partners in the road sector.

“Well these donors seem to be worried that when the PAC presents it report to the full House parliament, some overzealous MMD MPs members of parliament might want to reject it to save the ruling party’s credibility,” the insider said.

“But all in all, as technocrats we agree with the cooperating partners that the adoption of the PAC report by Parliament will throw more pressure on the authorities in government to act appropriately and to help unlock withheld funding. So the parliamentary proceedings will break or build the confidence. So it is true that the cooperating partners are keenly observing the discussions in PAC and later in Parliament.”

The sources said the Ministry of Finance and National Planning (MoFNP) did not have money to finance the construction of roads.

She said the cooperating partners were particularly angered by Works and Supply Minister Mike Mulongoti and RDA former board chairperson for defending the financial irregularities in the road sector.

“We have been regularly meeting these cooperating partners and they are unhappy but they are restrained by diplomatic etiquette. You remember that when the Auditor General released the audit report on RDA, the first reaction of hon. Mulongoti was careless and defensive; he downplayed the seriousness of the findings,” the sources said.

“Some cooperating partners were evening saying that, ‘your government, in an attempt to put the blame elsewhere started a campaign government-owned media to discredit donors, especially the EU, who were depicted as having ulterior motives, wanting regime change in the country’. The government caught wind of this complaint by cooperating partners and they government leaders are embarrassed.”

She said Lisulo was believed to be behind the attacks in the media against the cooperating partners with the view to provide a smokescreen against the deficiencies of RDA.

The sources said the government and the cooperating partners in the road sector were still discussing the appropriate action that should be taken to address the problems.

She explained that the government and cooperating partners want to come up with an action plan with remedial measures and a revised road sector investment programme.

“These people cooperating partners want our action plan to chart the way forward on the basis of recommendations of the PAC,” the insider said.

In response to a press query, European Union (EU) delegation to Zambia charge d’Affaires Aloys Lorkeers stated that the pace of the remedial and policy actions that the Zambian government would take would dictate the timing of resumption of EU funding to the road sector.

He stated that the EU, along with other Cooperating Partners, would discuss with the Zambian government the appropriate action that needs to be taken to address the problems identified in the road sector.

“It is very important that remedial measures arising from the audit findings are implemented as soon as possible because of the vital importance of the road sector for the development of Zambia in general,” stated Lorkeers. “This is why we welcome the Public Accounts Committee hearings and look forward to the recommendations in the PAC final report.”

In May this year, key donors to the road sector, including the EU, maintained their withholding of funding to the sector after revelations about the Road Development Agency (RDA)’s imprudent management of funds.

The Auditor General’s report that revealed that RDA overcommitted the government by over K1 trillion through over-procurement of contracts in the 2008 annual work plan and at the same time, the audit report has revealed that about K19.1 billion imprest had not been retired by RDA since 2004.

The donors stated that the Auditor General’s report confirmed their concerns in 2009 about the RDA’s budget execution and control.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home