The release of the Auditor General’s Report in Zambia every year is usually met with emotive reactions from stakeholders as it usually comes with rampant abuse of public resources by public service workers.
The release of the 2016 report by the Office of the Auditor General last month shows that misapplication of funds has continued unabated and shows that the trend is on the increase.
Hellen Chikale, Public Relations Officer in the Office of the Auditor General who released the report, said there was an increase in the misapplication of funds and unaccounted for funds during the year under review.
According to figures released, misapplication of funds increased from about 28 million Zambian Kwacha (about 2.8 million U.S. dollars) in 2015 to about 162 million Kwacha (about 16.2 million U.S. dollars) in 2016.
On the other hand, the report shows that unaccounted for funds increased from about 190,000 Kwacha (about 19,000 dollars) in 2015 to about 380,000 Kwacha (about 38,000 dollars) in 2016.
“The irregularities that the report highlights to be of grave concern includes misapplication of funds which increased by more than five times the misapplication level of 2015. Unaccounted for revenue, unaccounted for funds, unretired imprest as well as unaccounted for stores all showed significant increases from their 2015 levels,” said Tendai Posiano, media and information officer of the Jesuit Center for Theological Reflection (JCTR), an influential economic and social lobby group.
According to her, the continued misapplication of public resources calls for quick measures to be put in place to avoid the wastefulness, adding that it was unfortunate that funds were being misapplied when the country has a lot of development challenges.
With the current national poverty levels at 54.4 percent and rural poverty levels at 76.6 percent, high unemployment and high cost of living, Zambia cannot afford to continue on this path of imprudent use of public resources, she added.
The Civil Society for Poverty Reduction (CSPR), an organization involved in programs aimed at fighting poverty, says the country’s national treasury risked being bankrupt at the rate public resources were being misappropriated.
Maxson Nkhoma, the organization’s coordinator in eastern Zambia said it was disheartening to see how public officials had continued mismanaging public funds.
The organization has since called for the prosecution of all those cited in the Auditor General’s Report and urged the government to embrace the principle of transparency and accountability in the management of public resources.
The Policy Monitoring and Research Center, a local think-tank, said there was need to expedite the revision of a law governing public finance to make it more punitive to cases of abuse of public resources.
Bernadette Deka, the think-tank’s executive director said there was need to expedite the revision of the Public Finance Act as well as review of internal audits in all government departments in order to enhance corporate governance, adding that the misapplication of funds was worrying which had remained the same over the years.
Howard Kunda, chairperson of a parliamentary committee on public accounts, believes that the Auditor General’s Office should be empowered to prosecute erring public workers to ensure that money meant for development projects was not misapplied.
He further said criminal investigation experts should be incorporated in the Public Accounts Committee in order to instill fear in those trusted with managing public resources. Enditem