Editor's Comment

Controlling officers should be in control

PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu with newly sworn-in permanent secretaries at State House yesterday. PICTURE: ROYD SIBAJENE/ZANIS

WITH an unambiguous directive, President Edgar Lungu yesterday swore in three permanent secretaries for them to live up to the mandate of being controlling officers.
Through Denies Chisenda for the Ministry of National Development Planning; Chanda Kaziya for Labour and Social Security; and Daniel Bukali as permanent secretary for Western Province, the directive goes to all other controlling officers
The President’s message to the new appointees was loud and clear. They must live up to their mandate as controlling officers.
“You will be controlling officers. The term controlling officers is just what it is, controlling officers on behalf of the Government of Zambia and the ministries that you have been appointed to,” he said.
He added: “You cannot be controlling officers if you don’t have time to delegate and supervise those working under you. So I hope you take the term controlling officer very seriously and appear to be in control of the assets and account for the same for the people of Zambia,” the President said.
Certainly at a time such as this when the country is implementing austerity measures, permanent secretaries as controlling officers are a critical factor in the success equation.
Permanent secretaries anchor ministries and Government by directing and coordinating activities in line with policy and procedures.
It is the duty of the controlling officers to ensure that there are effective linkages among and within departments under a ministry by strengthening internal systems to improve co-ordination and communication for the effective performance of the ministry.
It is also the mandate of controlling officers to ensure that effective management and control mechanisms are put in place.
For instance, they should be on top of things by holding periodic meetings at which long and short-term issues affecting the performance of the ministry are discussed and reports presented on activities carried out and what is planned for the future.
While the President’s message was addressed to newly appointed permanent secretaries, it is also a strong reminder for those who have been serving for a longer period to interrogate themselves if they are living up to their mandate.
Recently Bank of Zambia Governor Denny Kalyalya gave a rather gloomy picture on the implementation of austerity measures. Dr Kalyalya said the measures still lacked effective implementation to rejuvenate the country’s economy.
This is worrying because it shows that some of the controlling officers who are supposed to implement the austerity measures are falling short of expectations.
Government has come up with austerity measures as a way to restore the macroeconomic stability, debt sustainability and ensure that growth is restored on an upward trajectory for the benefit of Zambians.
Among the austerity measures announced is the suspension of non-economic projects and those that are below 80 percent threshold of completion.
Government has also imposed a ban on unnecessary travel and workshops.
The ministries have also been directed to avoid contracting services and goods if funds are not available even if they are budgeted for to reduce on domestic debt.
Further, Government has revised management of leave days for public workers to avoid high expenditure. For instance, public workers are expected to take 30 days leave annually or forfeit their days.
These are just some of the measures Government has put in place to try and control expenditure.
This is especially that the fiscal side of economic management has been cited as the weakest link in Zambia’s macro-economic management system with analysts calling for professionalism of this important aspect needed to stabilise the country’s performance.
This requires permanent secretaries to be on top of things through delegation and monitoring as the President has advised.
The permanent secretaries have a daunting task to ensure that policies and measures put in place are implemented, and effectively so.
The successful implementation of austerity measures largely depends on the competence and versatility of the controlling officers.
They need to be hands-on and follow through to ensure that procedures and measures put in place are enforced to the letter.
The message from President Lungu is clear. Let all those worth the title controlling officer prove themselves, and effective implementation of austerity measures is one of the yardsticks they will be measured against.

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