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Audit exposes Rot in councils

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By Taonga Sabola

The latest audit of accounts for city, district and municipal councils by the Office of the Auditor-General for the year ended June 2020 has exposed glaring lapses in the management of public funds by authorities.

The audit report was laid on the table in Parliament by Finance Minister Felix Mlusu and was referred to the Public Accounts Committee (Pac) of Parliament for scrutiny.

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Among other things, the Financial and Compliance Audit, which was concluded in July this year, has exposed irregularities in eight areas, namely expenditure management, procurement, project management, receivables management, record management, revenue management, payables management and financial statement-related issues.

Expenditure management irregularities disciplinary procedures should be initiated for officers who deliberately violated accounting reporting procedures.

“Each payment of subsistence allowance which is irregular should be investigated. All funds which have not been accounted for should be accounted for and the responsible officers dealt with in accordance with Malawi Public Service Regulations (MPSR).

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“All irregular expenditures should be probed further and responsible officers dealt with in accordance with MPSR. All those responsible for misallocation of funds without following the due process should face disciplinary action,” the recommendations read.

Makiwa adds that investigation should be instituted for all payments which were made for non-existent and incomplete CDF projects.

He further recommends that all unjustified overpayments be investigated.

“Councils that failed to process some transactions through Ifmis should be probed as to why this was not done and appropriate action be taken.

“Councils that failed to remit Paye to MRA need to explain and justify this anomaly. Money which is due to a deceased estate and has not been paid must be paid immediately,” Makiwa recommends.

Centre for Research and Consultancy Director Milward Tobias said the level of rot was depressing.

“The problem is that those in the wrong are rarely sanctioned. It is also important to highlight that, often, abuse of public financial resources is done or facilitated by staff who are answerable to the Ministry of Finance, particularly the Department of Accountant General.

“All accounts officers in government, regardless of the ministry, department or agency they are deployed to, fall under the Office of the Accountant General. The Public Accounts Committee of Parliament should extend scrutiny to this department to understand why it is failing to instil ethics among its staff,” Tobias said.

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