ZANEC MEDIA STATEMENT ON 2016 AUDITOR GENERALS REPORT – EUDCATION AND SKILLS SECTOR

ZANEC MEDIA STATEMENT ON 2016 AUDITOR GENERALS REPORT – EUDCATION AND SKILLS SECTOR

Zambia National Education Coalition’s (ZANEC’s) mandate is to ensure that quality education is provided to every Zambian. This mandate heavily depends on government’s investment to the Education and Skills Sector.  Therefore, the resources allocated to Ministries and Spending Agencies (MSPA) are provided to ensure services are delivered to every Zambian Learner.

It is with uttermost sadness that the Coalition today stands to rebuke and call for an end to the rampant and shameless abuse of public resources meant for the Zambian learner. This is through the highlighted misapplication, misappropriation and failure to retire funds in the Auditor General’s Report for the financial year ending 31st December, 2016.

ZAMBIA NATIONA EDUCTION COALITIONS OPINION

The statement of Revenue, Financing and Expenditure indicates that the government had a budget of K53, 273,188,772. A supplementary budget amounting to K 9,446,300,603 was approved, this brought the total National Budget for 2016 to K 62,719,480,375. Yet during the financial year the government only spent K 51,739,890,715 hence an under expenditure of K 10,979,598,660. This already highlights government’s poor financial management system rendering it inefficient and unrealistic. The under expenditure is explained as a saving.  This scenario would beg the question: Do we as a country have the luxury to save allocated budget lines when all sectors are under financed at the most rendering public offices unable to provide much needed services? The Education and Skills Sector is no exception to this case.

Recommendations of the Auditor General and the Parliamentary Accounts Committee over the years and 2015 specifically have all fallen on deaf ears. The Secretary to the Treasury, Accountant General and the Department of Internal Auditor in MPSA’s must account to us (tax payers) why there is a continued rise in the abuse of public resources with impunity. The failure to act on highlighted irregularities begins to make us wonder whether tax payer’s money is safe in their custody at all and should be entrusted to such duty bearers.

As a Coalition we are angry that the following issues are continuously highlighted:

  1. A total of K 3,488,327 was paid out to Lawrence Bwalya Phiri, Moses Thole and I Sibajane. The trio misappropriated funds and hence could not account for the money. One of the payments purported to be for the District Education Boards Secretary’s Office was paid out to Mr. L Bwalya.

The misappropriated resources are equivalent to providing education services to 96,898 Primary level Zambian learners as allocations in form of school grants or 75, 180 Secondary Schools Zambian learners as allocations in form of school grant.  Are these three selfish officers greater than providing an education for the mentioned learners? We demand the immediate suspension and institution of investigation by the responsible wings of government so that these culprits are punished accordingly.

Education Sub Sector   Misappropriated figure Equivalence of  number of Zambian learners who would have been provided with Education Services
Primary  School grant K 3,488,327 96,898
Secondary School grant K 3,488,327 75,180

*The calculation is based on the population of learners at secondary and primary level as per Education Statistical Bulletin of 2016 by the misappropriated figure by the three officers

We observe with concern how these payments were approved through a system that is supposed to be water tight so as to ring-fence public resources.

  1. Payments amounting to K 571, 610 were processed without corresponding stamps from Bank of Zambia and were not posted in the Integrated Financial Management System (IFMIS). The IFMIS is a financial management system allowed to provide necessary controls, yet officers in the Ministry have found ways to manipulate the system so as to loot public resources. Proper financing procedures call for all documentation to have necessary stamps and posted into the system failure to do so is a clear indication of deep- rooted financial mismanagement schemes in the Ministry of General Education.
  2. Controlling Officers in the Ministries responsible for Education and Skills, as evidenced from the Auditor General’s Report, are either not providing leadership or are part of the abuse of public resources or have been caught up in the DEEP ROOTED ENTRENCHED CORRUPTION which has seen a collapse in the management of public resources allowing for the rampant misuse and misappropriation of public resources.
  3. Failure to follow laid down rules and regulations with regard to retirement of accountable imprest. The following officers were cited during the Audit to have failed to retire public funds after 1 year 5 months :
    1. Rodger Mulawo
    2. Lazarous Chanda
  • Ivy Sibajane ( Second siting in the report)
  1. Davison Zimba

At the time of the audit, the officers could not account for K 2,484,653 and only availed retirements in September, 2017; 1 year 5 months down the line. We therefore question the validity of these retirements and whether the activities earmarked for these monies actually took place. We demand that these Officers be prosecuted and this money be refunded to the Education and Skills Sector. This is not the only case. The two Ministries responsible for Education and Skills are constantly cited for questionable retirement of accountable imprest. We demand that the necessary and befitting action is taken against the four officers.

  1. The Auditor General further highlights that the key matter raised in the 2016 audit were stemming from Personal Emoluments. Public Officers charged with the responsibility to manage the payroll are no longer seeing the need to be accountable. As such, the report raises a number of issues.
    1. Misplacement of the pay roll
    2. Paying in the wrong notches
    3. Wrong salary scale
    4. Underpayments
    5. Absent without leave but still on the pay roll.
    6. Payment of housing allowance to officers already in government houses.

It has taken the Auditor General to highlight pertinent financial irregularities which were supposed to be captured by the Internal Auditor in the two ministries. The Personal Emolument issues raised points to a growing curtail involving end users and some teachers and also unsuspecting officers on the payroll for the two Ministries.

  1. Undelivered Teaching and Learning Materials: the case of Central Province where we have 448,976 undelivered text book when our schools are struggling with national book: pupil ratio of 0.96 at primary and 0.72 at secondary school. The DEB’s failure to deliver text books to schools is equally unacceptable.

 

  1. The Ministry of Higher Education is cited for unacceptable financial errors that continue to deprive the Zambian Learner a chance to access higher education. The irregularities cited include payments made without supporting documentation, failure to correct double posting, under and overpayment of allowances characterize student bursary awards for those abroad and at home.

 

The government faces a huge financial challenge to provide Scholarships and Bursaries to all eligible viable and deserving students due to a limited resource envelope. However, the report indicates that unverified payments are made directly to University of Zambia (UNZA) and the Copperbelt University (CBU). The Ministry of Higher Education did not verify these bills and the Ministry of Finance paid out according to the invoice and below were the anomalies:

 

  1. 41 students who were not registered at CBU or screened by the Bursaries Committee were paid K 722,465.
  2. 540 students at UNZA who were not eligible for sponsorship as they were not registered were paid K 7,799, 164.

The two scenarios facilitated for 581 students amounting to K 8,521,629 to be paid out to undeserving students. Yet in the 2016/2017 awarding of Scholarships and Loans to eligible applicants several were left out due to limited resources.

Funds committed to providing Skills Education were misapplied to conduct the following activities:

  1. K 3,000,000 went to pay for Management Support Services at the expense of procuring Laboratory Equipment.
  2. K 2, 700,546 went to pay for leave pay, subsistence allowance and allowances for university students at the expense of settling student bills.
  3. K2, 668, 119 went to purchase a motor vehicle for a Constitution Office Holder, furniture for the HQ at the expense of procuring equipment for Skills Centers.

As a Coalition we are shocked that the Ministry’s prioritization into unsubstantiated short term investments such as the purchase of vehicles, furniture and personnel emolument related expenses which are not even part of the output indicators in the Education and Skills Budget are done at the expense of long term investment into learners that will benefit the nation at large. It is disheartening and clearly shows the misplaced priorities by our Public Officers who are entrusted with the responsibility to manage public resources.

In conclusion, as a Coalition we call for the overhaul of the entire system and a change of mindset that public offices are not a watering well for officers to create get-rich cartels at the expense of national development. As a country we should be moving towards maximum utilization of public resources to ensure we achieve targets set for ourselves in the Seventh National Development Plan and Vision 2030.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. Supplementary budget should not be approved until all allocated budget lines are released so as to allow for accurate accounting.
  2. Secretary to the Treasury and Accountant General key performance indicators for their jobs to be linked to deliverables such as reducing mismanagement of public resources and this should be enshrined in the Constitution.
  3. Lawrence Bwalya Phiri, Moses Thole and L Sibajane Ministry of General Education Officers, must pay back the misappropriated money and face the wrath of the Law to deter future abuse of education resources.
  4. Law Association of Zambia must rise up to the challenge and provide direction to the nation where the National Budget is Law yet all the cited irregularities are a clear abrogation of the law.
  5. The appointment of controlling officers should be limited to officers who have risen through the ranks in government so that we have officers who understand the rules and regulations so as to protect public resources.
  6. The Auditor General should be given powers to prosecute erring officers.
  7. Immediate arrest of all cited and erring officers in the Auditor General’s Report.
  8. Increased supervision of the ministries responsible for education by the Ministry of Finance.
  9. The President to use the constitutional powers entrusted in him to provide leadership to bring to an end these “ Public officers money syphoning curtails”  and discipline the erring government officials whom have been found wanting.
  10. Drawing accountable imprest on behalf of other Ministry Officials must end and be drawn in the spending officers name so as to encourage accountability.

Grace M Sinkamba

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Issued on 17th November, 2017

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