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Parliament sends back OVP officials

The Public Accounts Committee (Pac) of Parliament Wednesday sent back officials from the Office of the Vice- President (OVP) after they failed to provide clear responses to audit queries for the 2015/16 fiscal year.

The officials, led by OVP Principal Secretary (PS) Clement Chinthu Phiri appeared before the committee to respond to observations in the Auditor General’s (AG) report which captured payment vouchers without supporting documents, procurements made using single sourcing and purchases not accounted for, among others.

When officials from the AG’s office visited the office of the OVP to conduct an audit, they found that there were no supporting documents for K45.567 million payment vouchers; procurements worth K8.05 million were made using single sourcing; K83.5 million fuel had not been accounted for; K55.86 million had been misallocated; while K3.32 million had been issued without an approved request to leave duty station.

However, Chinthu Phiri told the committee that documents to clear the payments had been misplaced and were later provided to the AG who has since cleared the concerns he had initially raised in his report.

It transpired that despite the OVP officials having cleared the issues raised with the AG, there was no correlation between what they were presenting to Pac and what the AG had such that the latter complained that he was being put in an awkward position.

“I am having challenges with responses from the Controlling Officer [Chinthu Phiri]… Whatever they are saying is not correlating with what I have. The appendices are in a mess, yet what came to my office was in order,” AG Stephenson Kamphasa complained.

Members of the committee also expressed concern over the Chinthu Phiri-led team’s attitude which they argued showed they were not serious and ready to appear before them.

According to the committee, officials who are serious about taking care of public finances would not come before it and fail to provide answers to queries which they had apparently already addressed with the AG.

Pac Vice-Chairperson Kamlepo Kalua, who chaired the meeting, wondered why the issue of poor record keeping seems to be a ready excuse whenever audit queries are raised.

“We have had the same excuse over and over again; in fact, since we started our work in 2014. Why should that be the case when it is a Treasury requirement that records on expenditure must be securely kept?” queried Kalua.

In his response, Chinthu Phiri—who was not at OVP during the period under review— apologised and indicated that the problem might have been due to lack of proper coordination between the controlling officer and his staff.

However, when it was clear that his team did not seem to have adequately prepared for the meeting, they were sent back to sort out the concerns raised.

According to Treasury instructions, a Controlling Officer is required to ensure that all proper records under their authority are secured and made available to relevant stakeholders when a need arises.

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