Principal secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Minning Ben Botolo on Monday incurred the wrath of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament who turned him back for appearing unprepared to respond to audit queries.
The ministry was allocated two days in which to respond to queries contained in a performance audit report on the economic performance and environmental sustainability of Viphya Plantations in Mzimba.
But Botolo and his team made the mistake of bringing copies of responses for submission to the committee and Auditor General on the day of their appearance before the committee.
Committee chairperson Alekeni Menyani said he was angry and disheartened that the controlling officer was not taking the matters seriously.
Said Menyani: “We have destroyed our national wealth, which is a source of gross domestic product and there are millions in uncollected revenue. We ask him to come and explain and he comes here so casually.”
He warned all controlling officers to adhere to the committee’s procedures, saying he would not tolerate laxity.
“People have entrusted us with the little money from their pocket, but we are failing to handle it with the urgency the matter deserves,” continued Menyani.
On his part, Botolo maintained that he was prepared to respond to the committee’s questions, but they needed to read the documents first.
“The audit was done in 2009, but the report only came out in 2011, issues have changed since then. But these are challenges, which happen when controlling officers change in ministries,” he said.
Botolo said members of Parliament (MPs) wanted to know what had happened since the audit was conducted, but he had no responses since the National Audit Office (NAO) had not carried out a fresh performance audit since 2011.
NAO conducted the audit at border posts of Mwanza, Dedza and Songwe to find out details of timber exported from the country and its contribution to the budget.
The audit found that there was heavy harvesting and little replanting between 2005 and 2009 in Chikangawa, which resulted in rampant deforestation.