Those who thought they are off the hook in the K6.2 billion Covid -19 Response Funds scandal after being reinstated might have been wrong as their ghosts are up and ready to pounce.
The Department of Human Resource Management and Development (DHRMD) has finalised an assessment report and laid draft charges for disciplinary and criminal proceedings against some senior government officials, who including principal secretaries, district commissioners (DCs) and chief executive officers implicated in the Covid-19 Response Funds audit.
A copy of the assessment report titled “Covid 19 investigative audit” which Weekend Nation has seen also mentions directors, internal procurement and disposable of assets committee members and accountants, as among those to face the law.
DHRMD spokesperson Kennie Ntonga confirmed the department finalised its work on the investigative audit report and sent the draft charges and recommendations to the Office of President and Cabinet (OPC) which sanctioned the exercise.
Said Ntonga: “I can assure you no one is going to be spared. Some quarters were claiming that the interdictions of DCs and other senior officers were just a cover-up to shield some people but government was just following the due processes in line with the law.”
He said the first part of the process was interdiction of controlling officers for failing to submit reports to the President, but after validation by auditors, the officials were cleared and reinstated.
“The second part was the release of the audit report by the National Audit Office and the last part is the assessment and recommendations by DHRMD”.
The report now with Secretary to Treasury (ST) for action, shows loopholes in public finance management that drained K720 million through procurement flaws, irregular allowances, dubious claims and poor planning.
Charges in the report include disciplinary proceedings and criminal investigations against officials at Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) for failing to account for K11.7 million he report further recommends a holistic review of financial management procedures and systems.
Some individuals and offices are supposed to refund K178. 5 million for allowances, fuel and other expenses incurred without justification, according to the report.
There are also officers who failed to maintain a Receipted Voucher Register for K381.6 million, transferred funds amounting to K7 million between activities without written authority as well as sharing excess cash close to K1 million.
Other officials at the Ministry of Health face charges for irregular procurement of fumigation services to fumigate government offices at a cost of K97.1 million without consideration of value for money by engaging a private company as opposed to Lilongwe District Health Office.
One officer will answer criminal charges for dubious payment of conference package to a hotel amounting to K8 million, according to the report.
At Blantyre City Council a number of officials face disciplinary proceedings and criminal investigations for diverting K7.1 million for personal use as well as procurement of goods worth K4.1 million at exorbitant prices after inflating prices.
At Blantyre District Council, some officers face criminal investigations and disciplinary proceedings for irregular procurement of disinfection services worth K3.1 million from a company which had no certificate and proper quotations.
At Nsanje District Council some officers face disciplinary action for failing to implement planned Covid-19 activities worth K24.1 million.
Several ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), including the ministries of health, labour, gender, community development and social welfare, information, forestry and natural resources, National Intelligence Service, department of immigration and Central Medical Stores Trust, face disciplinary charges for abuse of funds ranging from K850 000 to K1.7 million.
Procedurally, the ST is expected to write the affected officers to respond to the queries within 21 days before responsible officers in respective MDAs are empowered to lay charges on those affected.
Ministry of Finance spokesperson Williams Banda requested for more time when asked on the status of the report. But other sources at Treasury confirmed that all such processes were completed some weeks ago.
The report recommends that Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority should provide a market price for regularly obtainable goods in the public service to curb wastefulness in government procurements.
The report also recommends that a circular should be issued to clarify how Cabinet ministers’ trips should be financed in line with section 10 (10) (b) of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).
In April this year, President Lazarus Chakwera dropped Ken Kandodo as minister of Labour for using about K613 000 Covid-19 funds on an official trip to South Africa. The ministry was supposed to seek authorisation from Treasury to use the funds which it did not.