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K6.2 billion Covid funds report

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Gift Trapence

An investigative report on Covid funds disbursement which National Audit Office (Nao) has released exposes more rot in the way ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) used funds.

Nao released the report to Secretary to the Treasury, Office of the President and Cabinet and the National Assembly.

Nao spokesperson Rabson Kagwamminga said Tuesday that the Minister of Finance was expected to table the report in Parliament for adoption before it becomes a public document.

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Tuesday, in a statement, President Lazarus Chakwera asked auditing institutions to make the report public so that nothing is hidden.

However, the auditing institutions were yet to release the report to the general public as instructed by the President.

But, through our investigations, we managed to get the executive summary of the report, which highlights the extent of the rot.

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Highlights of the report include procurement flaws affecting up to K493,907,232.42, irregular allowances whose amount is pegged at K80,277,500, irregularities in accounting for withdrawn cash amounting to K83,056,539 and failure to account for fuel expenditure amounting to K39,786585,80.

The report also indicates that K23,649,094 was unbudgeted for, wastefully and dubiously spent.

The report also faults MDAs for failing to use K1 billion at the time of the audit.

“At the time of audit about K1 billion [K947,124,460.00] out of the allocated K6.2 billion had not been spent/used by the clusters that received them [sic] and funding to the local authorities was made without a basis and budget,” the report reads.

The report has several miscellaneous irregularities.

These include K47,124460 for the delay in the usage of Covid funds, K381,656,321 for no receipted voucher register, K95,358,972 for untraceable personal protective equipment and other stores items and K21,942,603.31 on items not distributed to users.

Another irregularity is on K14,420,000 for having no duty roster, K8,452,590 on missing and untraceable payment vouchers, diversion of K5,803,000 for personal use, transfer of K7,040,000 without written authority and K3,241,215 being used for other purposes and diversion of office equipment amounting to K1,389,500.

Detailed procurement irregularities, according to our findings, show that use of request for quotations against regulations cost the government K321,578,996.42, irregular procurement K105,995,500, use of single sourcing procurement method K48,582,220 and K10,191,500 was spent on materials procured at exorbitant and inflated prices and another K7,559,016 for failure to produce bidding documents.

According to the report, the audit was carried out to, among other things, ensure whether the guidelines in Covid funds’ management were in place and that various institutions receiving funds were fully aware of them and that they were followed.

The auditors also wanted to establish if funding to benefitting institutions was based on needs assessment and the budget.

They further wanted to check if organisations that received the funds for Covid response-related spending had a meeting and discussed the criteria and basis of allocation of the funds to MDAs.

Asked when the report would be presented to Parliament since the National Assembly is not currently meeting, Parliament spokesperson Ian Mwenye said Parliament could meet at any time depending on the need.

He further said parliamentary committees meet over issues and report to the plenary.

His statement could mean that Public Accounts Committee members could meet to deliberate on the report.

Meanwhile, Human Right Defenders Coalition (HRDC), while commending President Lazarus Chakwera for calling for the release of the audit report on the abuse of Covid funds, demanded that responsible auditing institutions release the audit report without further delay.

“HRDC’s expectation is that controlling officers should not undermine the President’s directive as this is tantamount to insubordination. It is also high time that the President exerted his authority by disciplining officers who ignore his directives,” a statement, which the coalition’s chairperson Gift Trapence has signed, reads.

The statement further implored Chakwera to ensure that all culprits—however big or small—face the long arm of the law.

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