A consultant Malawi Government engaged to supervise construction of health personnel houses and other medical facilities under the donor-funded Umoyo Housing Project has torn apart the Auditor General’s latest comprehensive audit. He has accused government auditors of working unprofessionally and drawing “misguided” conclusions in the audit.
Early this month, Weekend Nation reported that audit findings in the Auditor General’s report for the year ended June 2011 revealed details of several anomalies, including poor workmanship, under-performances and abandonment of work before completion of Umoyo Housing Project under Ministry of Health.
The audit report, currently under scrutiny by the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC), also exposed that most of the completed houses developed cracks and started leaking shortly after.
In reaction, DDC Designs—architects which Ministry of Health engaged as consultants to do post contract supervision of Umoyo projects in several districts, have trashed the audit findings, accusing government auditors of drawing “wild” conclusions in the audit report.
“In as far as our limited knowledge of process of audit is concerned, we believe that an audit is a process of verification and evaluation of the subject matter against good acceptable professional practice other than witch-hunting process.
“We say this because no auditor ever visited our offices or contacted us in order to verify facts before making misguided conclusions. To make a credible report, an auditor needed to visit the consultants’ offices first to get a briefing of the project before proceeding to the site and assume a professional responsibility which he is not competent in.
“Besides the building contract signed between the parties only empowers the supervising architect to decide on contractual matters and not anyone else,” reads the letter dated May 6 2013 signed by DDC Designs owner Davie Chidyaonga who has requested to join Ministry of Health officials when appearing before PAC to help in answering the audit queries.
The architects have expressed their concerns to Ministry of Health Principal Secretary Dr. Charles Mwasambo and copied the letter to 10 other authorities, including Secretary to Treasury, Attorney General, Auditor General’s office and Minister of Health Catherine Gotani Hara.
“We, therefore, wonder how an auditor would make conclusion on roof leakages in various buildings soon after completion in the dry season of October when in fact this is observed over a period of 12 months Defects Liability Period or at least one rainy season.
“We wonder how an auditor would make professional conclusion on the quality of building materials used without due reference to the specifications in the Bills of Quantities and certainly without briefing from experts duly appointed to undertake such functions,” reads the letter in part.
In an e-mailed response on Thursday, National Audit Office (NAO) corporate communications officer Thomas Chafunya said their auditors conducted the audit with expert guidance from the Department of Buildings under Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development.
“The fact still remains that our auditors were not satisfied with what they saw during the time of audit, unless the consultant or architect or designer is refuting that the buildings had cracks and other faults noted by the auditors or indeed the faults noted have since been rectified.
“While we appreciate that it requires a qualified personnel to determine the quality of materials used, there are certain works which even a layman can see that things are not in order. One does not need a rocket scientist to identify a crack in a building,” said Chafunya.
He said the auditors also worked with experts from other relevant government departments before drawing conclusions on their findings.
“Since the consultants in question were interested party, they could not be used by our auditors in the inspection process; hence the use of an independent expert. Consequently, it is not correct for one to state that the auditors came up with what is being termed as “misguided” conclusion.
“The report of our findings was addressed to the Ministry of Health and not to the consultant or architect or designer contracted,” said Chafunya, adding the DCC Designs architects can only appear before PAC upon request by the parliamentary committee itself.