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Errant controlling officers risk prison

Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (Pac) has asked government to invoke tough punitive measures on officers who disregard the Public Finance Management Act.

Pac Chairman, Alekeni Menyani, said this in an exclusive interview in view of repeated failures by government ministries and departments to adhere to the laid down procedures in the Public Finance Management Act.

Controlling officers of government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) appeared before Pac to answer on audit queries which mostly include failures in keeping payment records, failure to record items in stores ledger books and failure to file accounts documents.

For instance, the Department of Immigration failed to explain the K5 billion it allegedly used to purchase uniforms and other accessories; the government through the Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, made a $500,000 (about K360 million) payment to a Kenyan law firm Kairu Mbuthia and Kiingai Advocates, which did not provide services; the Malawi Electoral Commission failed to produce documentary evidence of how it spent K962 million to buy fixed assets between 2007 and 2008.

In other cases, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs could not produce documents relating to the use of K28 million while the Judiciary was queried on the expenditure of K124million on fuel allowance.

Menyani said, from the information they have gathered, there is mayhem in government, with controlling officers taking a laissez-faire attitude yet they are not punished when they fail to account for public money.

“The Public Finance Management Act clearly outlines how controlling officers should account for public money. Treasury instructions clearly state how accounts’ documents should be recorded and filed; failure to do this is illegal,” he said.

The Public Finance Management Act stipulates that an officer or chief executive who authorises expenditure in excess of the approved limit without permission from Treasury should be suspended without pay.

The Act also provides for a penalty of K100, 000 fine or five years imprisonment with hard labour for officers who refuse to produce any records in their possession when required to do so under the Act; refuses or neglects to pay any public money or trust money into the account or fund into which it is payable.

Other offences includes refusing to provide reports, intentionally or recklessly overspending funds under officers’ control or use of funds where there is no appropriation permitting such expenditure; making any statement or declaration or giving any certificate required to be made or given knowing it to be false.

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