Diplomats recalled over AG report query, says Kalaba

SEVERAL diplomats who failed to follow proper financial regulations and answer queries from the Auditor General’s report have been recalled, Foreign Affairs Minister Harry Kalaba has disclosed. And Mr Kalaba said as long as he remained Foreign Affairs Minister, he was not going to tolerate financial indiscipline in Zambia’s Missions abroad and those engaged in the vice would quickly be recalled. Mr Kalaba said President Edgar Lungu had spoken strongly against corruption especially in Government and that it was his responsibility to ensure that all Missions abroad were accountable to their financial actions. He was reacting to reports that Zambia’s Mission in Paris overspent by K500 000 by allegedly faking exchange rates while first secretary for press to Washington DC irregularly received allowances amounting to K19,879 as education allowance for his children who were at the University. Mr Kalaba, however, said that all audit queries were forwarded to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and that the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would be expected to appear before the committee to explain on the revelations in the Auditor General’s report that Zambia’s Paris Mission overspent by K500 000. He said he was aware that in some instances, the Auditor General’s report could be erroneous but that did not mean that queries by the report should be ignored. He said as a result of such audit queries, several diplomats had been recalled and that those who would be found to have flouted the rules governing the management of funds in foreign missions would be penalised. “All queries in the Auditor General report are often taken before the Public Accounts Committee and the permanent secretary, not only in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs but also from other ministries, are summoned before the committee to explain erroneous and irregular expenditures as revealed by the report. “As for me, as long as I remain at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, those who will be found flouting financial rules will be dealt with. So far, several diplomats have been recalled as a result of such queries,” Mr Kalaba said. And Mr Kalaba said that the Government had started the process of moving away from renting properties in foreign countries that were housing Zambia’s foreign missions. Mr Kalaba said Government had started implementing the Mortgage Financing Policy that would result in the building or purchasing properties abroad which would house Zambia’s Missions abroad. Mr Kalaba said so far, a team had been sent to Lisbon in Portugal and Ghana to inspect and assess the possibilities of either building or buying property in those countries that would house the Zambia’s Missions.