Efforts by authorities to recover the abused K68 million meant for Malata subsidy programme in Mchinji District Council has hit a snag.
Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development in November last year resolved that all sections at Mchinji District Council that an audit revealed they benefitted from the funds should repay the money.
The sections mentioned included the council secretariat, which is supposed to pay back K27 million, K12 million to be recovered from Agriculture Sector Wider Approach (Aswap) and the remaining K29 million to be shared between Social Welfare, Roads Fund, Rural Livelihood Economic Enhancement Programme (Releep) and Health.
However, Mchinji district commissioner (DC) Rosemary Nawasha disclosed in an interview on Tuesday that only Aswap has paid back part of their arrears amounting to K2.7 million while the rest are protesting the resolution.
Those refusing to repay argue that the money was misappropriated by individual suspects—who until now haven’t been disciplined.
The DC further explained that the council is powerless to pounce on sectors defying the order, especially in the absence of an audit by National Audit Office (NAO), adding that it is difficult to use the first report and take action on alleged suspects.
Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development spokesperson Muhlabase Mughogho on Wednesday observed that NAO is yet to conduct the investigation; hence, the delay.
The move by the council to recover the funds follows an article our sister newspaper Nation on Sunday published last November, which brought to light how the funds meant for the Decent and Affordable Housing Subsidy Programme (Dashp) were abused in 2015 and suppliers remain unpaid two years later.
National Local Government Finance Committee (NLGFC) executive secretary Stanley Tchuthi has insisted that finance and audit committee at the council need to enforce the resolution as mandated by law.
He added that individual suspects implicated need to be pinned down and brought to book as well.
Said Tchuthi: “We now have a full council and we rely on the audit and finance committee to enforce that resolution. Maybe personalities changed in some sectors as others got transferred and the new ones couldn’t own the mess.”
An investigative internal audit report on Dahsp funds for the district for July 1 2015-September 15 2016, which we have seen, shows that funds amounting to K33 518 735.20 in expenditures could not be accounted for and that payment vouchers and requisitions were either not certified or authorised by the responsible personnel. n