PERENNIAL revelations of gross financial irregularities committed by various Government institutions in the annual Auditor General’s Report are depressing.
The undertaking by this constitutional office to conduct financial audits on Government institutions to enhance accountability and transparency is commendable.
Government like any other viable corporate entity must make follow ups on how the funds allocated to various ministries and institutions in the national budget are expended.
It could amount to bad corporate practice to negate the aspect of auditing Government institutions for whatever reasons.
However, whenever a financial audit is conducted, the audited entity must enforce the recommendations put forward by the auditors to seal financial loopholes.
Suffice to say that, this has not been the case with audited Government institutions year in, year out.
Something must be seriously wrong somewhere, and the sooner this is corrected to end this impotent approach to financial management the better for Government operations.
Unfortunately, the Office of the Auditor General has been producing Audit Reports each year, at a great cost on tax-payers’ money for that matter, but no tangible and practical steps are taken to recover the reported financial losses.
Now that the latest Auditor General’s Report for the year ended 30th September, 2015 is out, one does not have something dramatic to be done about the glaring financial irregularities highlighted.
Among the issues pointed out in the Report is an unvouched expenditure of K349 million and undelivered materials amounting to K251 million.
Furthermore, the report has issues such as outstanding arrears, failure to meet revenue targets on individual tax types, failure to recover domestic tax debt and failure to collect ground rates among others.
As such, it has been ranked as the highest irregularity. This is not surprising as it is deliberate that payments are either not fully supported with relevant vouchers or lack of it completely. It is how the cartels steal tax-payers’ money, our money.
What is painful is that despite such reported financial misappropriations, it is business as usual. The same concerned Civil Society Organisations, Non-Governmental Organisations and other interested groups will lament or comment on the Report for few weeks or months and no measures either punitive or prosecutorial will be taken to bring the culprits to book.
Customarily, some Members of Parliament will pose a question to Her Honour the Vice-President during the Vice-President’s Question Time in Parliament on what Government is going to do to minimise such gross financial irregularities but nothing much is done about it. There is total lack of follow-ups
Where is Government not doing things correctly to have allowed this cancerous behaviour spread over the years? Why are culprits not prosecuted and jailed for gross financial irregularities?
For how long should this be allowed to go on unabated?
The inertia to decisively deal with this mess is what has contributed to the financial woes that Government is currently grappling with.
Efforts by the Auditor General’s Office to interact with the Controlling Officers extensively to provide them with an opportunity to take corrective action on the findings of the Audits could not yield the intended results. Why?
Controlling Officers are not bothered to read the recommendations of the Auditor General’s Report because there is clearly lack of impetus to bring the perpetrators of these financial scandals to book.
Therefore, there is urgent need to fix this endemic problem if at all Government is to see an improvement in financial management which will in turn enhance the delivery of its socio-economic programmes intended to benefit the ordinary Zambians.
We think that there is need to promulgate legislation that must give the Auditor General’s Office powers to prosecute the offenders and not merely hand over findings to the Anti-Corruption Commission for prosecution. We cannot expect different results if we do not do things differently.