In his 2016 report, the Auditor General states that the trend of irregularities have continued to increase.
The Auditor General also states that the misappropriation and misapplication of funds, unretired accountable imprest, unvouched expenditure and undelivered materials remain areas of concern.
The Auditor General’s report for 2016 reveals, among other things, that K3,618,127 was misappropriated, K3,700,509 was unaccounted for revenue and K162,095,699 was misapplied.
This is a lot of money in a country whose Gross Domestic Product (at official exchange rate) is US $21.31 billion (2016 est.) and GDP per capita is US $3,900 (2016 est.) And this is not a Chishimba Kambwili revelation; it is the Auditor General of the Republic telling us that in 2016, taxpayers’ funds amounting to K3,618,127 were stolen and K3,700,509 uncounted for. The Auditor General’s Office is a public institution whose role is to scrutinise the public sector to see to it that there has not been any wastage of taxpayers’ money and that government delivers services in an equitable, efficient, effective and orderly manner for the benefit of all the citizenry. It is supposed to provide Parliament with independent information, guidance and assurance to help hold the government to account for the public funds it has been entrusted with. It also informs Parliament on public sector performance thereby contributing to facilitating a better performing public sector.
The Auditor General’s Office is responsible for carrying out a number of audits, among them financial audits of the government’s financial statements (public accounts), perform special examinations band annual financial audits of public corporations, special reports and performance audits. As such the Auditor General’s reports need to be taken very seriously and acted upon. But who will act upon them when those who are supposed to do so are compromised by their own corruption? In general, this whole regime – from State House to the lowest government department – is a corrupt one.
We have a Parliament whose only discernible preoccupation is to rubberstamp the decisions of the executive and defend its transgressions. We say this as a political metaphor that refers to an institution with considerable de jure power but little de facto power; one that rarely or never disagrees with the executive.
Historian Edward Ellis called this type of legislature “a toy parliament”, with specific reference to Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II’s Turkish parliament, created in 1876 with the sole purpose of appeasing the European powers. Our Parliament is no different.
And law enforcement agencies like the police that are supposed to be arresting those found wanting are themselves among the consistent perpetrators of irregularities.
We also have a very serious problem with the suitability of most controlling officers. These are seldom appointed on merit. They are often appointed to these positions through nepotism, closeness to those in power and the ruling party. In a word, they are there to facilitate the stealing and misuse of public funds.
There’s need to employ competent and independent-minded people as controlling officers if we are to see an end to, or a reduction in, these irregularities.
Picking up relatives or ruling party cadres and sympathisers as controlling officers will not do and it has completely failed us. We need controlling officers who are able to say ‘no’ to the appointing authorities when they are asking them to do wrong things.
As Edward Abbey said, “A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.” We probably need to change the way controlling officers are employed and removed from employment.