Audit exposes rot at education
Overlooks PPDA, committees
The Ministry of Education overpaid four contractors by about K129 million, the latest Auditor General’s report for the year ended June 30 2021 has revealed.
According to the audit report, four contracts had approved-total-contract sums of K806, 466,230.62 but payments made on these contracts amounted to K935, 818,382.00.
“Therefore, the contractors were overpaid by a total sum of K129, 352,151.38.
“Management failed to produce evidence that the contracts were revised upwards after obtaining prior approval from the internal Procurement and Disposal Committee or the Director General of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority,” the report says.
The report further says six other contracts had their contract sums revised upwards by percentages ranging from 22 percent to 92 percent, contrary to Section 50(1) and (2) of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Act (PPDA) of 2017.
Section 50(1) states that all amendments to a signed procurement contract shall require the prior approval of the responsible authorities and shall be effected as prescribed in the regulations. Section 50(2) further states that for the purpose of this section, responsible authority means the internal Procurement Disposal Committee or the Director General.
“The contracts were revised from a total sum of K1,215,449,060.20 to K1,744,813,419.14, hence increased by K529, 364,358.00.
“This required prior approval from the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority since any increase above 15 percent is its responsibility to approve such adjustments,” the report says.
The audit also queries the South East Education Division (Seed) for putting to other uses funds meant for bursaries, external travel and maintenance of motor vehicle.
Treasury instructions (2004), Section 4.14.1, dictate that if a controlling officer is satisfied that the provision against a programme/item shall be inadequate, he shall submit an application to the Secretary to the Treasury to wire or transfer funds between a programme/ item within the same vote. The application shall be in writing and shall be signed personally by the controlling officer.
“An inspection of bursary budget, payment vouchers, reconciliation statement and expenditure statement by cost centre disclosed that Seed had used bursary funds amounting to K36, 067,224.00 for items other than bursary.
“The reconciliation statement showed that these funds were spent on maintenance of motor vehicles, external travel and others. As a result, the malpractice deprived the neediest students from the in-hand cash transfers to meet their daily social needs,” the report says.
The audit also faults Ministry of Education management for failing to implement a Performance Management System since 2008 as per a June 12 2008 circular which directed all principal secretaries and heads of department to implement the performance management system in their respective ministries as well as departments starting with headquarters while rolling out orientation workshops in regional/division offices.
“It was, however, noted that management of the ministry had not yet implemented the performance management system as at the time of the audit.
“One of the indicators of non-compliance to the above requirement is failure by the ministry to appraise its officers from 1st July 2008 to 30th June 2021,” the report says.
Acting Auditor General Thomas Makiwa has since issued a qualified audit opinion on the Financial Statements of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology for the year ended June 30 2021.
A qualified opinion is a written statement by a certified public accountant in an audit report, stating that the financial statements of a client are fairly presented, except for a specified issue.
Minister of Education Madalitso Kambauwa Wirima was not immediately available for a comment Wednesday while the ministry’s spokesperson, Mphatso Nkuonera, asked for ample time before he could comment on the audit.
However, Edukans Executive Director Limbani Nsapato described the situation is unfortunate.
He said the sector is already underfunded.
“The authorities need to come in and address the problem of abuse of money so that it can be used for the intended purpose. The ministry should put in tough financial internal controls to seal all loopholes, especially at the district level,” Nsapato said.
On his part, Civil Society Education Coalition Executive Director Benedicto Kondowe said findings that K129 million and K36 million was either overpaid to contractors of diverted from bursaries to travels, respectively, is a clear manifestation of systemic fiscal discipline gaps within the Ministry of Education.
“It shows that checks and balances systems are weak to properly track expenditures made. In addition, diversion of funds meant for bursaries to travel is a great infringement of the right to education of the would-be beneficiaries. It is morally wrong and unacceptable.
“In the circumstances, the controlling officers at ministry’s headquarters and the affected councils should be held to account. I must be quick to point out that unjustified omission or commission should not be condoned at all if sanity is to be arrested. Systems put in place must be made to work to improve efficiency in the delivery of goods and services in all the sectors,” Kondowe said.