Thursday, February 14, 2013

TIZ calls for action on Auditor General's reports

TIZ calls for action on Auditor General's reports
By Ernest Chanda
Thu 14 Feb. 2013, 15:20 CAT

TRANSPARENCY International Zambia says findings of financial irregularities in the Auditor General's reports have become a ritual because there is no follow up action. And CSPR says the government should formulate a law that will empower the Auditor General's office to summon, question and prosecute controlling officers who authorise misuse of public funds.

Meanwhile, ActionAid Zambia country representative Pamela Chisanga says it is possible for the country to fund its national budget by 90 per cent, going by the revenue collections indicated in the 2011 Auditor General's report.

Giving an analysis on the 2011 Auditor General's Report which has also revealed continued financial irregularities, TIZ executive director Goodwell Lungu advised the government to enforce punitive action on culprits.

"We believe as TIZ that the findings of the Auditor General's report have merely been reduced to academic exercise and mere traditional ritual because year-in, year-out, there is no tangible action that inspire public confidence in the management of public resource," Lungu said in a statement.

"There is therefore need for the PF government to expedite the implementation of the Access to Information Bill that will empower the public to be able to hold public officials accountable during implementation of the budget and not wait to be presented with such ever-worrying public funds losses."

He stated that the Auditor General's report was such an important document that it could not be left without any action.

Lungu stated that if government was not taking any action on culprits, the public would have no confidence in such a report.

"The revelation of the current (2011) Auditor General's report, yet again, involuntarily attracts attention and concerns from all taxpayers by the manner in which public resources are being put to waste by those mandated to put in place stop-gap measures that would minimise if not completely prevent further wastage of national resources," he stated.

"As Transparency International Zambia, we find it rather unbearable that misappropriation of public funds stands at alarming levels of over K1 billion in 2011 … and in 2009 it stood at K3.9billion. On unaccounted for revenue, it is shocking that the figure keeps on growing and now stands at a whopping K530 billion as compared to K1.7 billion in 2010 while it stood at K1.3 billion in 2009. This demonstrates that our revenue systems are breaking down and permitting such huge losses that must be effectively prevented almost immediately."

Lungu stated that it was sad that excess expenditure stood at a massive K456 billion in 2011 as compared to a staggering K87 billion in 2009.

He stated that it was further disturbing to note failure to follow procurement procedures, resulting in an increased wastage of K4 billion in 2011 compared to K2.5 billion in 2010 and K1 billion in 2009.

"It is also disheartening to note that the government continued procurement of air or no delivery of goods and services even after paying huge sums of public funds. In the report we note that in 2011 undelivered materials were paid for a sum of K2 billion compared to K646 million in 2010 and K345 million in 2009," stated Lungu.

"This demonstrates that there is a growing trend in some government agencies to pay for goods and services that are not delivered. We feel as TIZ that such incidences can easily be brought to a stop if law enforcement agencies rounded up and arrested all perpetuators of such schemes most of whom we believe still work for the public sector. The PF success in the fight against corruption will be determined by the amount of effort and measures they put in place to curb such wastages."

And Civil Society for Poverty Reduction (CSPR) programmes manager Isabel Mukelabai said it was not good that irregularities in the report should just end at being highlighted.

"It is thus imperative for government to demonstrate to the Zambian people prudence in managing public funds entrusted to them by sealing all loopholes that allow for ministries, provinces and all spending agencies to abuse public resources," said Mukelabai in giving the institution's analysis of the Auditor General's report.

"This must be followed by stern action and prosecution of those found to have abused public funds to recover these much needed resources. There is also need to have a law in place that will enable the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC), parliament and law enforcement agencies summon, question and prosecute the controlling officers that had authorised the abuse of these resources irrespective of whether they have moved or not."
And Chisanga said Zambia could fund a large part of its budget from local resources.

"In the Auditor General's report we note that despite having collected excess revenue in 2011 amounting to close to K11 trillion (KR11 billion) the report indicate that there were downward revisions to this tax revenue totaling K2.2 trillion (KR2.2 billion) without any explanation, without any documentation as is required by financial regulation number 133," said Chisanga. "This also points to the fact that Zambia is capable of financing at least 90 per cent of the budget from domestic resources, even from the current tax regime."

According to the 2011 Auditor General's report, government incurred an excess expenditure of over KR456 million (K456 billion).

The report further revealed a misappropriation of funds amounting to over KR1 billion (K1 trillion).

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