In the wake of revelations of more rot in the management of public funds in local councils, Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament has summoned former district commissioners (DCs) of councils under review to explain the transactions.
The DCs are also expected to brief Parliament through the committee the action taken against those who mismanaged the public funds.
The report of the Auditor General on the accounts of city, town and district councils going back to five years ago indicate that some council officials misappropriated revenue and took advantage of laxity in financial management systems to produce payment vouchers without supporting documents as well as not remitting tax to Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA).
DC for Thyolo Charles Thombozi appeared alongside his predecessor Bester Mandere to respond to audit queries which took place during his time.
Salima DC Yamikani Chitete-Matemvu also appeared alongside former DC Gift Rapozo who was in charge between 2002 and 2010.
The committee has also summoned former DCs for Chitipa, Neno, Rumphi and Nsanje and former chief executive officers (CEOs) for councils of Karonga, Dedza, Balaka and Zomba, according to vice-chairperson of the committee Kamlepo Kalua.
“We are struggling to get responses from current DCs because there are so many questions they fail to respond. We are getting documents which were prepared because they had been summoned by the committee,” he said.
When Thombozi appeared before the committee yesterday, he was taken to task for producing evidence that his office had supporting documents for payment vouchers amounting to K3.6 million because they had no stamps or signatures of the people who prepared them.
“You have heard from the Auditor General that these are genuine vouchers and he verified them. I cannot bring documents which are fake. Not having a stamp was a serious omission by my office which will not happen again,” he said.
Despite giving satisfactory answers, the committee turned its attention to the former DC, Bester Mandere, who was controlling officer between 2006 and 2012 to respond to the queries.
Mandere’s attempts to explain that the audit was undertaken when he was no longer Thyolo DC did not satisfy the committee and he had to apologise.
Auditor General Stephenson Kamphasa said the DC was aware of the queries.
“The report was in his hands. I can’t say he was negligent, but maybe he overlooked them,” he said.
According to the report, mismanagement of funds is rampant in all councils.
An audit of Mzuzu City Council found that the council did not remit Pay As You Earn (Paye) taxes for three years and this accumulated to K12.5 million which Parliament suspects was used for other activities without management knowledge.
The audit also found that councils such as Mzuzu and Lilongwe had massive city rates arrears whose recovery periods were not substantiated schedules.
For Zomba, National Audit Office (NAO) found that the council’s inefficient debt collection system was so poor that K353 million was not collected for services such as city rates, sewerage fees and general debtors.
Zomba, like Lilongwe and Mzuzu, also had failed to remit Paye amounting to K4.6 million.
Chitipa District Council’s audited accounts indicated K1 million was paid to various officers within two years without signatures of the payees and the council used K2.9 million for deceased estates for fuel and allowances.
The council could also not account for K8.5 million social cash transfer payments, K2.8 million payments on Local Development Fund without indicating names of payees and fuel amounting to K2.9 million was not recorded.
In Karonga, K22 million raised at the District Health Office between March and November 2009 had no payment vouchers and a similar occurrence was found in Likoma where evidence of expenditure of K27 million could not be produced.
Fraud in payment of allowances was rampant in M’mbelwa District Council where management could not account for K18.5 million as the payments had no supporting vouchers or signatures of people who recieved the allowances.
In Rumphi, K21 million could not be accounted for because payments were made without supporting documents.
The committee is yet to scrutinise council audit reports for 2013 which NAO conducted with funding from KfW of Germany. n