Senior government sports officers Jameson Ndalama and Joseph Mazaza pocketed over K2.5 million in unjustified external allowances which they have not fully refunded despite an audit exposing them two years ago.
Mazaza, who is chief sports director in the Ministry of Youth and Sports pocketed K1.8 million in 2019 for a trip to Algeria which he did not make. He was supposed to travel with Department of Youth officials Brenda Sulamoyo and Maurine Phiri, records show.
According to the Ministry of Labour, the two Department of Youth officials travelled while Mazaza did not because “allowances were cleared late by the bank”.
In the case of Ndalama, director of sports in the Ministry of Youth and Sports, in 2018 he was overpaid by K769 000 in allowances when he travelled to Botswana for the Africa Union Sports Region 5 Youth Games.
The allowances controversy happened when the Department of Sports was under the Ministry of Labour.
“The overpayment occurred because the officer who prepared this payment used the rate of $280 per day than the recommended rate of $180 per day,” reads a letter seen by Weekend Nation in which the Secretary for Labour informs his Ministry of Youths and Sports counterpart of the allowance overpayment.
In an interview yesterday, Ndalama said he observed the irregurality after the money had been loaded in his visa card.
“Unfortunately, I had already travelled to Botswana. When I returned, however, I alerted the accounts department which confirmed. But I could not pay back instantly because an audit was supposed to first confirm the anomaly,” he said.
The Office of the Auditor General investigation into the 2018/2019 financial year established the overpayment and exposed Mazaza who, according to the Ministry of Labour, did not report receiving the allowances despite having not travelled.
When we called him for comment on the matter, Mazaza was elusive.
He said: “I cannot say I am confirming that I didn’t report back. You can check files at the Ministry of Labour for answers.
“What you must know is that there are principles that we are supposed to follow in the Civil Service if one is refunding allowances. These principles are in those files.”
The Public Affairs Committee of Parliament (PAC) on Thursday summoned the labour authorities to hear their side on a range of audit queries, commenting on the issue of the two officers, Ministry of Labour Ptincipal Secretary Dickson Chunga said they have arranged with the Ministry of Youths and Sports to deduct the money from their salaries.
“The delay to recover the money is due to the fact that the issues are not being handled by ourselves because the officers concerned are no longer with us. We believe that they [Ministry of Youth and Sports] will continue to recover the money,” he said.
PAC chairperson Shadreck Namalomba accused the ministry of lacking seriousness in tackling abuse of funds.
“It’s over two years since these anomalies happened and it is unfortunate that the money has not been fully recovered. What the ministry is doing is regularising fraud. This should not be condoned,” he said.
A letter confirming the two officials’ salary deductions, which Weekend Nation has seen, shows that Ndalama will be deducted K42 700 for 18 months effective August 2021 while Mazaza is, from February 2020, being deducted K50 000 for 36 months.
Meanwhile, legal expert Ayuba James has categorised Mazaza’s conduct as criminal: “That’s a criminal offence and abuse of office because, as a public officer, he was supposed to report that he had not travelled and refunded the money voluntarily.”
Commenting on Ndalama’s case, the lawyer said: “If he indeed managed to report the anomaly immediately then I would give him the benefit of the doubt. However, his failure to pay back instantly could be a civil matter in which he can be asked to pay the money back with interest.”