The Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) has acknowledged existence of lapses in the public service, a development that has resulted in mismanagement of public resources.
However, Rex Chiluzu, chief director responsible for Finance in the OPC, did not exempt the OPC from the lapses, acknowledging that it has not been exemplary going by the audits of 2013/14 financial year where the Auditor General found that the office could not explain an expenditure of K132 million without authorisation from Treasury.
The official said this at Parliament Building in Lilongwe on Friday when he led a team to a meeting with Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to respond to audit queries.
OPC failed to explain why the office used K132 million without the approval of the Treasury and why payments amounting to K24.5 million were made without supporting documents.
The officials also failed to provide proper accounting records for audit inspection of fuel and stores items which were valued at K46.7 million.
These lapses, according to the committee, painted a bad picture of the OPC which committee members said is expected to set a good example for other ministries to follow.
Committee chairperson Alekeni Menyani expressed his worry on rampant abuse of public resources, observing that at the rate mismanagement cases keep recurring in audit reports, the country could be heading for a disaster if nothing is done to address the problems.
He asked the controlling officer to confirm there were lapses in the civil service which have seen people doing as they please to which Chiluzu agreed that systems in government have got lapses.
Said Chiluzu: “It is correct that OPC needed to be exemplary in our dealings because this is a high office, it is really unfortunate that these things happened and it is not a good picture looking at it that other ministries have to be monitored by us.”
The responses from Chiluzu and his team, like those from many others that appeared before the committee since the beginning of the interrogations on the audits, did not please the legislators who wondered why the controlling officers were apologising for the financial mismanagement in their ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).
Karonga Central member of Parliament (MP) Frank Mwenifumbo asked Chiluzu why he was trying to apologise for the mismanagement of funds at the OPC when, as a controlling officer, he knew that bypassing procedures was against the law.
Said Mwenifumbo: “It is becoming a trend now that controlling officers appearing before this committee are fond of saying we apologise for what happened. To whom are you apologising? The chairperson, government, the law, the Public Finance Management Act or the people of Malawi? Anyone must be aware of consequences when they are breaking the laws.”
In his response, Chiluzu told the legislators that his apology was going to the committee and the public at large; hence, a promise to find the best way of sorting out the problems in the OPC and the whole civil service.
PAC provides oversight roles on public finance management and has been meeting controlling officers from various MDAs on audit queries for the financial year 2013/14. n