Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has accused the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) of laxity in the manner it handled the case of two of its officers prosecuted for misappropriating public funds.
During an appearance before the committee last week to respond to Treasury minutes on the Auditor General’s report for the years ended June 2008, 2009 and 2010, the committee found responses from MoEST controlling officer, Justin Saidi, not convincing.
In 2008, Patricia Khumbanyiwa and John Andrew Msaka, both procurement officers at MoEST, were reported to have misappropriated about K5 million through payment for goods not delivered, stores purchased not delivered and under delivery of stores items which led to their prosecution.
However, the court dismissed the case against the duo because State witnesses did not turn up.
Thus, the Lilongwe Magistrate’s Court discharged the case against the two in 2014 based on the fact that the State failed to turn up despite being served with notices.
In an interview after the hearing, acting committee chairperson Rabson Chihaula Shaba said the committee was disappointed with how the ministry handled the case.
He said: “They [MoEST] failed to prosecute the two, a situation which later made the courts decide to dismiss the case. The case took four years to be completed and in all those years the State failed to parade witnesses. This is really disappointing. It shows that the State did not have a case against them.”
During the interrogation, committee members wondered why the two were still in the mainstream civil service and getting paid.
Following the judgement, Saidi told the committee, government adhered to the court ruling.
He said: “In the light of this development, allow me to report that the court ruling signifies that the sum of K457 050 is a loss to government and, as such, I have sought a write-off from Treasury.”
Saidi also said that there was nothing they could do as a ministry to recover K245 500 from the two as it was also a written off.
To avoid a recurrence of the same, Saidi said MoEST has hired qualified accounts and procurement officers. He said the ministry has also been allocated two lawyers to help speed up court cases. n