Analysis: JOSHUA BANDA
AS PER Constitutional requirement, the annual audit report on the accounts of the republic of Zambia for the financial year 2017 was released by the office of the Auditor General.
The office of the Auditor General endeavours to promote transparency, accountability and prudent management of public resources. It independently and objectively focuses on providing quality auditing services in order to assure all stakeholders that public resources are being used for national development and well-being of the general citizenry.
The report mostly highlighted issues which could not be resolved during the audit process and those which were highlighted in the previous reports, but had not been rectified at the time the report was being released. Before the report is produced and released to the nation, an opportunity is given to all public institutions which were audited to respond to all queries and concerns raised. It is in this same vein that all those entrusted with public funds must ensure and strive as much as possible to appropriate the funds and find means and ways of making good what has been queried.
One major stakeholder is the procurement profession. By design, the profession is mandated to carry out procurements on behalf of the procuring entity. This is as dictated by the Public Procurement Act No. 12 of 2008, section 20. All procurements reflected in the budget for 2019 will be committed by this profession on behalf of the nation. This is the reason why the profession is a key stakeholder and is required to commit public resources prudently. The matter should heavily involve controlling officers who should buy into procurement regulations and give utmost support to procurement practitioners if tables are to be flipped downside-up in terms of failure to follow procurement procedures.
Comparatively, the report from the office of the Auditor General reveals that the value of unaccounted-for funds were rather on the higher side in 2017 amounting to K31,200,930.00 compared to 2016, whose value was K386,834.00. Similarly, irregular payments in 2017 accounted for K21,791,360.00 compared to K1,591,348.00 in 2016, failure to follow procurement procedures accounted for K1,051.686.00 in 2017 compared to K509,535.00 in 2016, wasteful expenditure in 2017 accounted for K 6,875,395.00 compared to K3,586,879.00 in 2016, overpayments accounted for K7,437,149.00 in 2017 compared to K1,061,247.00 in 2016, while misappropriation of funds recorded K5,036,051.00 in 2017 as opposed to K3,618,127.00 in 2016
Stakeholders are therefore invited to work collaboratively and ably address all concerns highlighted. On the other hand, the country has produced many qualified procurement professionals who have the ability to handle procurement and procurement-related matters. Unlike before, we now have several institutions such as the Copperbelt University, University of Lusaka and many more universities and colleges offering procurement programmes. The profession has well versed professionals who are able to handle various positions at different levels such as director of procurement, procurement general and other critical positions that would necessitate control of public funds and ensure total control of public resources related to procurement.
Zambia Institute of Purchasing and Supply has been conducting long and short-term training programmes around the country to equip its members with adequate ammunition to appropriately handle procurement issues in the country. Further, the institute has been visiting every district in the country to ensure that there is maximum compliance in appointing appropriate officers to manage the buying and stores functions.
Zambia Public Procurement Authority has been on board with electronic procurement to ensure that procurement regulations are fully comprehended and ease its use and inviting all stakeholders to play a role in good governance.
Can stakeholders make a difference in this brand new year by exercising utmost integrity, high professionalism and objectivity as opposed to subjectivity, thorough teamwork, high confidentiality, excellence, great innovation and high respect for public resources?
The author is former chairperson for Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) Zambia.
Analysis: JOSHUA BANDA