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Pac demands K6.2 billion Covid funds probe

Shadreck Namalomba

NDALA

The Public Accounts Committee (Pac) of Parliament has expressed concern over some controlling officers’ failure to account for Covid resources they received in August last year.

Pac has, therefore, directed the Auditor General (AG)’s office to follow the trail of the funds and furnish Parliament with a report within seven days.

Pac Chairperson Shadreck Namalomba said the committee was saddened by revelations that some funds could have been abused and had been forced to act swiftly on the matter.

“We have asked the Auditor General to, within seven days, submit an audited report of Covid funds. Within three days from [the day of] receiving that report, we are instituting a public inquiry and, surely, everyone who has been implicated— whether it is at the highest level or Cabinet ministers or controlling officers— will be called to appear before the committee and appropriate action will be taken on them,” Namalomba said.

He said the committee’s expectation was that, once the K6.2 billion allocation was exhausted, it should have been liquidated, with controlling officers providing supporting documents, before the Central Government could disburse the next tranche of K17 billion, which was released in late January.

“That’s how financial accountability is done. You account for what you were given before you receive new funds to implement your projects,” Namalomba said.

Namalomba said members of his committee suspected that some controlling officers forged receipts to justify some unnecessary expenditure.

He said President Lazarus Chakwera, as leader of the Executive arm of the government, was to blame because it is his duty to ensure that controlling officers are doing their job.

Acting Auditor General Thomas Makiwa referred The Daily Times to National Audit Office spokesperson when we asked him about the practicality of scrutinising the expenditures within seven days.

Meanwhile, Anti-Corruption Bureau spokesperson Egrita Ndala has said the graft-bursting body is following developments related to the K6.2 billion with keen interest.

Ndala said the ACB would have to wait for the outcome of the process of submitting audit reports to see if there would be any need to come in.

On Sunday, President Lazarus Chakwera said it was unfortunate that some controlling officers in government ministries, as well as heads of Covid clusters, were failing to submit expenditure reports of how they used part of the K6.2 billion Covid funds released last year.

Chakwera gave controlling officers and cluster heads 48 hours, which ended yesterday night, to submit their expenditure reports to the Presidential Taskforce on Covid or else face the music.

On Monday, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) asked for an audit into how the Department of Disaster Management Affairs used K6.2 billion Covid response funds from the Treasury.

A statement from DPP spokesperson on finance Joseph Mwanamvekha said the party wanted the National Audit Office to conduct the appraisal and that a report on the same should be submitted to Parliament through Pac.

“If it is found that these funds have been stolen or misappropriated, the responsible officers must immediately be arrested and prosecuted under the laws of the country,” the statement reads.

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