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Public Accounts Committee sends back Judiciary team

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Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (Pac) Wednesday sent back a management team from Judiciary, after accusing it of failing to bring evidence on how K124 million was used as fuel allowance for staff in the 2012/13 financial year.

Controlling Officer for the Judiciary Agnes Patemba and three other top officials, including the chief accountant and deputy sheriff of the High Court, were shown the exit door by Parliament staff.

Chairman of Pac Alekeni Menyani said Patemba and the others failed to convince Pac members why Judiciary has its own system of refuelling vehicles using public money, disregarding a system approved by Treasury.

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This was after the Auditor General’s report indicated that there was misallocation of K16, 391, 589.40 to which Patemba agreed and said the payments were charged to wrong budget lines contrary to Treasury instructions.

“Management would like to respond that these misallocations happened during DPP cadets on rampage the last days of the financial year 2012/13. Treasury gave the Judiciary one week to spend the money in time for closure of the financial year.

“During that period, officers in the accounts section worked under pressure to process payments within the short time given. In the course of making those payments, some of the expenditures were mistakenly charged to wrong budget lines,” she explained.

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However, the committee did not buy this, as Pac Deputy Chairman Kamlepo Kalua described the controlling officer as not being in control of issues and queried Patemba’s competency to run the Judiciary while Francis Phisso, Blantyre North MP, said the money must be taken back from the beneficiaries to set a precedent.

Menyani, on the other hand, said this was a trend in most government ministries and departments, saying this was why the country was getting poorer by day while neighbouring countries were getting richer.

“We need to put a stop to this. As a committee of Parliament, we are at pains to accept this. When you don’t explain an expenditure, there is a consequence for that,” Menyani said.

Auditor General Stevenson Kamphasa recommended that the matter be closed but the uncompromising parliamentarians flatly refused the recommendation.

Apart from the K16 million misallocation of funds, the audit report also indicates that there was payment of fuel not accounted for worth K7,182,709.69 card, bulk purchase of fuel not accounted for amounting to K85,612, 269.04.

Others include non-maintenance of fuel ledgers worth K28,916,168.20, purchases not recorded in stores ledger worth K20,729,087.98, unsubstantiated fuel refund worth K1,590,627.00, fuel not accounted for through log books amounting to K2, 355,627 and unsubstantiated refunds worth K8,992,866 among others.

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