Parliament has written the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) and Secretary to the Treasury urging them to take action on former district commissioners (DCs) who failed to explain how money was misappropriated in the 2008/09 and 2009/10 financial years.
The first victim of the committee’s stronghand is former DC for Nkhotakota, Charles Thombozi, on whom a surcharge would be imposed as he could not account for K7.2 million payment vouchers which had no supporting documents from the 2009/10 financial year.
Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has previously written the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to probe district councils, among them Balaka District Council, over allegations of fraud and suspected corruption.
This week, the committee was expected to probe audit queries of 15 district councils dating back 10 years ago, among them Nkhotakota District Council.
The current controlling officer for Nkhotakota, DC Felix Mkandawire, appeared alongside Thombozi under whose watch the K7.2 million could not be accounted for.
Mkandawire’s explanation that there was poor filing and that the council has not managed to locate the documents of over five years after the audit was carried out, angered the committee which turned to the former DC for an explanation.
Said Mkandawire: “Honourable chairperson and your honourable committee, management regrets this anomaly in its entirety. The major challenge was poor filing and with this payment vouchers with relevant supporting documents at the time of the audit.”
When called to explain, Thombozi said the documents could not be easily traced because at the time, sectors such as education, health, transport and others were operating separately and he asked for more time to get the documents.
But PAC chairperson Alekeni Menyani, in an n
interview yesterday, bemoaned laxity by the councils in managing public funds which he said must come to a stop.
Citing Section 88 (2) of the Public Finance Management Act which makes it an offence for a public officer to engage in poor record keeping pertaining to finances and can incur a five year prison term and a fine, Menyani said the committee had no powers to mete out the punishment.
He said PAC could recommend to the Chief Secretary and Secretary to the Treasury to impose the necessary punishment.
Said Menyani: “We are worried that if we don’t make an example of one DC, we will continue to have situations where they are getting away with anything.
“There are laws that clearly state how controlling officers should take care to file financial reports and other records but now that DCs know their mismanagement will only be scrutinised eight or 10 years from now, things will never change.”
The PAC meeting is scheduled to end today, but due to inadequate time, it has not managed to go through the 15 district council audits.