Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament has said there is a capacity gap among controlling officers which is fueling corruption as public officers fail to observe Public Finance Management regulations.
For instance, the latest report on government accounts for the year ended June 2017 reveals that K5.3 billion was not accounted for in MDAs in the 2016/17 fiscal year alone due to failure by controlling officers to provide supporting expenditure evidence.
The Auditor General reported that payments without supporting vouchers increased from K517.1 million in June 2016 to K5.3 billion in June 2017.
PAC has also reviewed public and local council audits which found that even after the Cashgate revelations of 2013, financial systems remain weak.
After reviewing the 2013 to 2016 audits, the committee held an in-camera high-level meeting with the Secretary to the Treasury and his officials in Salima at the weekend to query shortfalls in the public finance management system observed in the Auditor General’s reports from the time the committee was instituted in 2014.
In an interview after the meeting, PAC vice-chairperson Kamlepo Kalua said the committee was concerned with how controlling officers were handling public documents, saying their responses and action leave a lot to be desired.
He said the committee has observed that most controlling officers are failing to observe required standards given to them by the committee.
Kalua attributed this to a capacity gap in government, adding that this was partly because the officers work in an intimidating environment.
He said: “We met to discuss the competency and calibre of the controlling officers and possible action against some of them. There is capacity gap that is prevalent in all government ministries, leading to public resource looting.
“During the meeting, one could see the fear, the intimidation and secrecy surrounding the issue of State and institutional corruption; people are unable to express themselves for fear of losing their jobs. This deters development.”
The government team, led by Secretary to the Treasury Ben Botolo , comprised officials from the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development, the Office of President and Cabinet, and the Auditor General.
But asked to comment on issues raised by PAC, Botolo referred The Nation to the ministry’s deputy director of administration Davis Saddo.
Saddo said the meeting was looking at audit issues from 2008 to 2012 which PAC noted and wanted responses on measures taken from the government.
He said: “The ST assured the committee on measures that have been put in place to deal with anomalies that were noted in the audits. There are some administrative measures and some are policy measures.
“As such, we have set March as the last month for virements. On misallocation of funds, there are also measures set. We have also reminded MDAs to follow the Malawi Public Service Regulations (MPSR) or they will face disciplinary actions.”
He added that they told the committee that currently several officers are on interdiction in the ministries of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, as well as Foreign Affairs and International Security for misconduct and other issues.
General observations in the reports for all the years the committee has been in place are that almost all ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) which appeared before it were queried for misappropriating funds and they all spent money without seeking authority from Treasury.