Funds suspected to have been abused in a Center for Disease Control (CDC)-funded Ministry of Health (MoH) project have reduced from K2.5 billion to K875.7 million, according to a recent audit report.
The report also shows that the number of people suspected to have been involved has dropped from the initially reported 63 to 38.
The findings are in sharp contrast with the first audit conducted by National Audit Office (NAO) which revealed that K2.5 billion was misappropriated by 63 MoH officials between 2013 and 2015.
However, records indicate that the project, which was being audited by private firm Graham Carr, had K2.7 billion. Going by the initial audit, this meant that K200 million had been used over a three-year period.
The NAO audit is said to have included all project partners not on MoH payroll. These included National Registration Bureau (NRB), members of Parliament (MPs), teachers, traditional leaders, drama groups’ members and journalists from both private and public media houses. This pushed the list to 1 000.
Explaining the changes in a written response to an enquiry, MoH spokesperson Adrian Chikumbe said the NAO audit did not build individual cases.
He said: “After a thorough review, the number of implicated officers so far has reduced from 63 to 38 in terms of investigations of abuse of allowances only, but excluding fuel.
“The K2.5 billion initially reported has also been reduced to K925 918 030.14. Out of the K925 918 030.14, only K50 222 050 has been reviewed as eligible allowance, leaving a balance of K875 695 960.14.”
Further, Chikumbe said the first report captured each officer who accessed the funds regardless of whether they went out to implement their activity. He said this prompted MoH to sanction another audit which singled out individual cases starting with the 63 officers highlighted in the CDC scam.
In an earlier interview, Minister of Health Peter Kumpalume said as a politician he would have loved to see all the implicated fired, but said he respected the rules of natural justice.
“As a politician yes, these people need to go, but we must follow procedures and hear their side of the story,” he said
In December 2015, the 63 officers were suspended after CDC, an agency of the Government of the United States of America, raised the red flag that some MoH officers collected allowances without undertaking field trips for an HIV and Aids programme. n