Members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament yesterday asked some senior officials at the Accountant General’s Department to step aside to pave the way for investigations which should be conducted by external auditors.
The officials, led by the Accountant General David Kandoje, appeared before the committee yesterday in Lilongwe as part of investigations into the cash leak at Capital Hill which has led to loss of billions of public funds.
In his response, Kandoje explained to the committee measures his office has undertaken to extract information which, he said, could lead to identification of weaknesses in the government accounting system, the Integrated Financial Management Information System (Ifmis).
He said: “We have engaged a system supplier, Softech, to recover all transactions which were deleted in the system. They were not entirely deleted, we have also discovered an audit trail.”
Kandoje added that the task force combing Ifmis comprised independent members who are local experts in information technology (IT) and accounting as well as officials from his office.
Once extracted, Kandoje said, the information is expected to be compiled and submitted to consultants who will then conduct an independent review of what went wrong before submitting back to the Accountant General’s Department.
But this explanation irked some committee members who argued that the Accountant General’s Department could not investigate itself when some of the dirty transactions originated from the same office.
“There was a need for independent external auditors to avoid conflict of interest, chances of tampering with evidence are very high,” said committee member Henry Mussa.
Thyolo Thava Member of Parliament (MP) Lifred Nawena, another member of the committee, wanted to know who authorised the Accountant General to investigate his own office, but Kandoje’s response that the operation was meant to recover information from the financial system did not satisfy the MPs.
Kandoje explained: “We observed anomalies in Ifmis and we went to the Chief Secretary [to the Government] who advised us to go to the Auditor General. Anti-Corruption Bureau, the Auditor General and Financial Intelligence Unit have been asking for information from us and we had to extract data to give them.”
Auditor General Steven Kamphasa came to the rescue of his counterpart and assured the committee that a forensic audit which his office would carry out in due course would respond to all queries.