Thursday 7 November 2013

Parliamentary Committee Grills Councils Over Financial Irregularities

By Paul Shalala

Fwanyanga Mulikita Committee room at Parliament buildings in Lusaka is a famous venue where controlling officers account for the misuse of public funds.

The Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) holds regular meetings in this room to question permanent secretaries, witnesses and other government officials on how they spend public funds.

This rooms is usually a quiet place but sometimes its full of humor and laughter.

MMD Chipangali MP Vincent Mwale is the committee’s chairman and he usually talks tough about financial irregularities.

On Wednesday, Blackberries were a big issue here.

Having spent K12, 500 000 on five undelivered black berries for senior council officers, the Serenje District Council was on the defence over the matter.

It was discovered that the council paid an individual and not a company to supply the phones and the purpoted supplier fail sick and never delivered the products.

Members of parliament who included UPND Choma Central MP Cornelius Mweetwa and his MMD Mafinga counterpart Catherine Namugala had too many concerns over the purchase of the Blackberries.

Later that day, it was the turn of Mwinilunga District Council to defend its payment of K746, 000 to a company which did not exist.

The company, Buildtech Contractors was paid in advance to do works at the Civic Center but it has been discovered that the company does not exist and its owners are on the run

The case has since been taken to court.

The matter got more interesting when Solwezi District Council Treasurer Anthony Sinkala revealed that awarding of the contract was influenced by politicians and all officials who handled the matter have since died.

He added that people in Mwinilunga are fearing to act on the matter because who ever tries to deal with it dies.

Since last week, various District Councils are appearing before the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee.

Local Government Permanent Secretary Reverend Howard Sikwela is appearing before the committee the whole week.

The Committee is seeking clarification on irregularities raised in the 2010-2011 Auditor General's report on grants.