By The Day Breaker
ZAMBIAN government authorities cannot account for over US$50 million of public funds that were either misappropriated or misapplied by the officers responsible and spending departments, according to the country’s Auditor General.
The report released by the Auditor General’s office on Thursday, and which comes on the heels of two other audit reports released in February this year that also highlight grave pilferage of public funds running into millions of United States dollars within the country’s road agency and local authorities, shows that misappropriation of public funds remains an irregularity of high concern.
Ellen Chikale, the head of public relations at the Auditor General’s office in Lusaka, stated in a press release that the latest Auditor General’s report had been submitted to Parliament, and that there was, for example, a noted steep increase in the misapplication of public funds from about US$2 million in 2015 to over US$16 million in 2016, the year under review.
Chikale indicated that the public audit report contains a trend analysis of audit issues raised in the reports of the Auditor General’s office for the 2012, 2013 and 2014 financial years which show that the total number of audit queries had been increasing over the period.
“The queries increased from 719 in 2012 to 1,215 in 2014, representing an increase of 68 per cent,” she stated further. “The analysis further shows that despite the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) making recommendations to resolve the issues, the number of issues resolved has not improved while the number of outstanding issues has continued to increase from 400 in 2012 to 927 in 2014, representing an increase of 131 per cent.”
It was further stated that as could be noted from the trend analysis, there was need to ensure that the audit recommendations of the Auditor General and Public Accounts Committee at the National Assembly are implemented in order to enhance public financial management.
Immediately the news about the release of the Auditor General’s report, which is also supposed to be submitted to the President before it is availed to the public, started filtering through, President Edgar Lungu, who was visiting the country’s North-West at the time, said all those cited in the audit report should be dealt with by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).
President Lungu recently challenged those alleging that his administration was brazenly corrupt to produce evidence amidst a public furore of worrying levels of public sector corruption within his PF administration.
Meanwhile, one of President Lungu’s ardent critics, ex- information minister Chishimba Kambwili, a one-time political ally to the President, who was recently expelled from the ruling party, instantly took to social media in the wake of the latest Audit Report saying the report shows the Lungu-led administration was ruthless and reckless with regards abuse of public funds.
“The Auditor General report for this past year shows a 500% increase in misappropriation of public funds,” Kambwili claimed. “This report does not take into consideration the [US$] 42 million robbery or the ridiculous [Ndola – Lusaka] dual-carriage way figures. If everything is taken into consideration you will find that the plunder could reach 900%. Can you imagine last year, misappropriation of funds stood at 28 million (Kwacha), a year and hundreds of mansions later it now stands at 162 million [kwacha]. Then you have the nerve to ask for evidence on corruption. Cry my beloved country, cry enough is nough. Let us take a stand against this terrible vice of corruption.”