Wednesday, December 1, 2021
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Stiffer penalties to public resources squanderers would ensure accountability-YPI

Emmanuel Chitsika/ Kimberly Kusauka

Youths from the country’s ten provinces working under the banner Youth Perspective Initiative (YPI) have resolved to take their call to the National Assembly for legislative acts that ensure stiffer penalties for defaulters in submitting public accounts statements in order to bring sanity and accountability.
Presenting their concerns and programme lay out to Gutu East legislator and member of the portifolio committee on public accounts Berita Chikwama and Clerk of parliamentary Public Accounts Committee sub-committee on local government Francis Muchadakuenda in Masvingo recently, the youths called for clearer pieces of legislation aligned to the main constitution that will safeguard public resources from ‘incompetent’ leaders.
Abel Sibanda of (YIP) said there should be control measures to protect national resources from benefiting individuals at the expense of the majority.
“There should be control measures in place to ensure government operates within the limits set by parliament. The ministry of Finance is said to have used resources more than those approved by parliament and thus such an expenditure delegitimise the status of parliament as an institution in their role of overseeing the spending by government ministries.
“Failure to implement the recommendations made by the Auditor General after her reports shows how much we lack in terms of seriousness on part of government thereby compromising service delivery,” said Sibanda.
He also highlighted the need for stiffer measures or penalties to be put in place to whip into order local authorities whose trend in defaulting is growing as well as trust over the allocated devolution funds’ fate would be in the hands of such people.
“For the years 2014, 15, 16 and 17 there have been general trends and similarities from one authority to the other. The number of authorities that were still outstanding in submission of financial statements on the time of the AG tabling the 2017 report in June 2018 kept on rising.
“In 2014, two authorities have not submitted, eight in 2015, 22 in 2016 and 63 in 2017. If they were not submitting reports that they are supposed to submit then the obvious question would be why they are not doing their jobs. Failure to present papers for audit will result in speculation over the manner in which they do their work, as it seems like they are hiding something. These are some of the issues young people wish to understand and see them addressed.
“We have noticed that the ways in which municipalities are run is not in line with Public Finance Management requirement which is in contravention of the Constitution, Audit Office Act and Public Finance Management Act. Then we wonder whether funds allocated to lower tiers of governance through devolution would be a case of throwing money down the drain, ” added Sibanda.
Receive Nyamutamba an activist also with YPI called for the introduction of mechanisms that will go a long way in addressing the poor governance issues currently obtaining in various ministries and local authorities as well.
“In my view there is need to have such mechanisms to be in place and strengthened. I have noted with concern from the AG report that some employees in such organisations are even incapacitated to do the work. There is need for retraining and capacity building workshops to public office bearers who seem not to know what they are supposed to be doing,” said Nyamutamba.
Responding to the issues raised by the youths, Chikwama said the public accounts committee has encountered quite a number of challenges in bringing perpetrators to book in their bid as Parliament to account for every cent of the public resources.
“We have encountered quite a number of challenges as the Public Accounts Committee. For example when we went to the ministry of Agriculture, we discovered that the ministry of finance made payments for command agriculture but when we asked the permanent secretary was not aware of them, the accountant was not also aware but the minister would say he knows of such payments. There was no written evidence as to the payments made,” said Chikwama.
She however, said the committee’s visit to Zambia has helped open their minds and modes of operation as they adopted the use of sub-committees that she believes will address some of the shortcomings the committee has been facing.
“After the visit to Zambia we learnt about the use of sub-committees which we have since adopted into our own system. The anti-corruption commission works together with the AG and that is the scenario we wish to prevail in our own country so that the anti-graft commission can be effective.
“There have been a lot of loopholes in most parastatals which in some cases have resulted in victimisation of whistle blowers though we would revoke the powers of parliament to resolve the cases but the victims will not be willing to act again. ZACC has also been given the green light to attend oral evidence hearings before parliament for the sake of gathering evidence,” she added.
Chikwama also said she supports the incorporation of stiffer penalties to act as a deterrent measure against likely defaulting.
“If we look at the Finance Management Bill, one could see that there have been some amendments to the laws which were not effective. For instance, one would deliberately ignore what would have been recommended and nothing affects him/her. As a result, we still wish that some improvements that would enable ZACC to arrest their suspects for prosecution be made.
“Introduction of independent internal auditors who operate free of the top management of any organisation would also address the challenges. These internal auditing systems will follow own channels in terms of feedback which I feel would ensure accountability is guaranteed at organisational basis than waiting for the AG,” she said.
The youths proposed for investigations into the accounts or properties of those employees who retire after allegations, establishing capacitation programmes for employees, amending constitutional acts, incorporating competent individuals after forensic audits as well as initiating public audit act provisions to tighten the relaxed laws.
They also called for the enforcement of Chapter 9 of the constitution that looks at principles of public administration and leadership governing various enterprises be they state-controlled or private.

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