Return furniture, Minister told

A minister who took government furniture without authority and used it in his personal residence has been told to return it within seven days or face arrest.

The Luapula Province administration, in the Office of the President has given former provincial Minister Rodgers Mwewa a seven day ultimatum to return a full set of government VIP home furniture or face            police action.

President Michael Sata recently fired Rodgers Mwewa as deputy minister in the Ministry of Agriculture together with his counterpart Ronald Chitotela on allegations of corruption and abuse of Constituency Development Fund.

And Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC) chairperson Vincent Mwale has described the abuse of public funds by politicians and government workers in Luapula Province as a disaster.

Mwale said that about K6.8 billion was abused by way of unretired imprest, misapplication of funds, unaccounted for assets and payments to unsupported activities made on various unreceipted expenditures.

“It is shocking that at the time we are saying that there is zero audit query at the provincial office in Luapula, you bring to us, audit queries of this form; K2.2 billion in un-retired imprest, K2.2 billion misapplication, another K2.2 billion unaccounted for assets and unsupported expenses. This is a disaster,” said Mwale

And appearing before the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday, Luapula Province Permanent Secretary Chanda Kasolo revealed that the then provincial minister Mwewa got house furniture meant for the VIP guest house without authority, for his personal use at his ministerial house and the furniture has not yet been returned.

Kasolo said that it was wrong for Mwewa who is Mwansabombwe Patriotic Front (PF) Member of Parliament to take the furniture including a fridge, stove, VIP sofas, a radio and a flat screen television set for personal use when they were meant for the VIP Guest House.

He said that attempts to retrieve the furniture from Mwewa have proved futile as letters written to him asking for the return of the same have not been responded to.

“With these efforts failing to yield results, we have just written to him giving him seven days in which to return the furniture and if he doesn’t then we shall remain with no option but to report the matter to police.

We have already informed the police in the area and they are just waiting for us to go back and ask them to execute the matter,” said Kasolo.

Kasolo said that if state assets were taken away in the manner it has been reported, it was the responsibility of the controlling officer to ensure that the issue was addressed.

On whether the minister stole as he was not entitled to use the furniture, Kasolo could not give an outright answer but insisted that the matter would be reported to police for further action.

But PAC member and  Mwembeshi MP Austin Milambo was quick to add, “PS look here, the assumption people have and we have is that he might be using the assets without authority, he also got the assets without authority, is this stealing?

I think he stole, this is stealing because when you check the auditor’s report it says that the furniture was meant for VIP and not for him,” said.

PAC members also heard that there were unaccounted for assets amounting to over K29 million which went missing at the time of the audit.

“Chair Hon Rodgers Mwewa took the furniture for his personal usage at the new house. These chairs were meant for the VIP guest wing at the District Commissioner’s office.

I can confirm that the furniture was bought for the VIP and not the ministers’ home usage and the assets in question were stored in the boardroom but the Minister decided to use them and that is how he got them.

“I am sure this happened because there was no controlling officer to regulate the movements of the same.

The only officers who were there are junior officers whom I think were intimidated and gave the furniture to him just like that,” said Kasolo.

It was also revealed that about K7 billion was paid to a named contractor, without specifications, which was later revoked but re-awarded to the same company.