A year after Speaker of the National Assembly Richard Msowoya ordered the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to investigate 20 legislators suspected to have abused an estimated K80 million of development funds, there is still uncertainty as to when the committee will table a report in Parliament.
The Speaker directed PAC, which provides oversight functions to government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), to probe the allegations and table a report with names of suspects before the House.
The Speaker ordered PAC to work with the National Audit Office (NAO) and Ministry of Finance to ensure PAC tables the report in the House.
The directive followed a revelation by Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodal Gondwe that at least 20 legislators were suspected of mismanaging about K80 million meant for Constituency Development Fund (CDF) and District Development Fund (DDF) and risked possible arrest and prosecution.
But hopes are fading off for taxpayers to know the identities of the 20 legislators as authorities are still doubtful on when the issue will be tabled in Parliament.
In an interview on Tuesday, PAC chairperson Alekeni Menyani said his committee could not carry out a probe into the audit report that contained names of the suspected MPs after it transpired it was an internal audit from Central Internal Audit Unit (CIAU) of the Ministry of Finance.
The Public Audit Act only mandates the committee to consider annual audit reports on government accounts that are submitted to the House by NAO.
The K80 million was part of the K3 billion development funds allocated to 16 out of the country’s 28 district councils (DCs).
However, Menyani also blamed Gondwe for not being in contact with his committee on the progress of the issue as such it was difficult for him to competently comment on the way forward, in the absence of concrete information.
“We need to be a little more transparent in handling these issues so that we are on the same page because as of now we are on different pages and he [Gondwe] doesn’t care,” said Menyani.
Gondwe was not available when contacted while the ministry’s spokesperson Davis Sado referred Weekend Nation to Secretary to Treasury (ST) Ben Botolo, who did not pick up his phone after several attempts.
In a separate interview, Msowoya said after his directive, the onus was on PAC to be accountable to Parliament.
“If they have not done anything, PAC has to be held accountable. On my part, the only time I can do anything is when Parliament is sitting because this was a chamber matter, so if they [PAC] have not done anything, they have to be held accountable and Parliament itself should also demand a report,” said Msowoya.
But NAO spokesperson Rabson Kagwamminga said CIAU presented the said audit report to their office and currently discussions were underway to validate findings contained in the report.
He said: “It’s actually procedural to consider the materiality of the issues before we can consider including them in our subsequent final report which we present to the National Assembly.”