Auditor General Stephenson Kamphasa yesterday came under fire from members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament after he maintained that he had no mandate to release a report providing details of suspected culprits of the theft of government resources in the Capital Hill Cashgate.
PAC started meeting yesterday on the expectation that the British firm which carried out the forensic audit into the government financial system, Baker Tilly, would appear before the committee as requested to respond to queries concerning the reports.
However, the members were irked to receive two letters from Baker Tilly, one addressed to the Auditor General, and copied to the committee and another to the Clerk of Parliament (CoP), refusing to make an appearance and instead directing the committee to the owners of the forensic audit reports, the Auditor General.
In a seemingly well-coordinated attack on the Auditor General, committee members, one after another, demanded answers from the Auditor General who reiterated that he did not have the list of the names the committee was looking for except for five case files which had been concluded and handed over to law-enforcement agencies.
In an earlier appearance, Kamphasa washed his hands off the issue and asked Minister of Finance Maxwell Mkwezalamba to respond to the committee, but he also referred the committee to Baker Tilly which has also refused to bulge.
But Baker Tilly’s letter addressed to the CoP and read out by committee member McSteyn Mkomba stated: “It is our experience and opinion that releasing the names might jeopardize these investigations and hinder the purpose [of the audit.] Request to release the information should be made to the relevant authorities not Baker Tilly.”
Baker Tilly also informed the committee that their work was not done and investigations were still underway to establish and compile more case files for the attention of the law-enforcement agencies but through Auditor General.
Another committee member, Nicholas Dausi, wondered why the Auditor General had informed them that he was not responsible yet Baker Tilly was claiming otherwise.
But member Lifred Nawena did not mince words, saying: “The Auditor General is a liar. He said he would bring the list of names involved that Friday, then came back to say it would be the Minister of Finance. We know these names have not been released because they include sons and daughters of this administration; they include ministers of this administration. We aren’t children. Why not just say I have failed in my duty?”
But Nawena’s rant met with Kamphasa’s calm resolve, informing the committee he had no mandate to release the name of companies and individuals involved in the theft because work was still underway to get to the bottom of the matter.
“You can call me a liar and I don’t want to make any more promises lest I be called a liar again. But the truth will come out at the end of the day,” Kamphasa said.
He said that of the 20 companies and individuals mentioned in the audit report released to the public last month, only five case files were completed and Baker Tilly had arrived in the country to complete the rest.
“We are remaining with 15 or so case files to be handled, and we may achieve substantial progress as about 11 may be handled this coming week, but the remaining four are very complex. But rest assured that the truth will come out,” Kamphasa said.
Kamphasa said he could not disclose the names as that was beyond his constitutional mandate which required that he report to Parliament through the Ministry of Finance.