Analysis: JOSHUA BANDA
AS PER constitutional requirement, once again, the report from the Office of the Auditor General on the accounts of the republic for 2016 was presented to the republican President and to the Speaker of the National Assembly.
The report was also made available to the general public.
It brought out a number of issues which require collective intervention measures. Some issues bordering on failure to follow laid-down government regulations and instructions, failure to account for funds, weaknesses in internal controls and delays in implementing projects were highlighted.
The report has acknowledged improvements made in some areas while other areas have not yet made progress. The notable improvements made include failure to follow procurement procedures. A significant change has been achieved in this area. 2016 recorded a value of ZMW509,535 compared to 2015 which recorded ZMW35,701,497. The category of undelivered materials saw an improvement too. The figure for 2015 stood at ZMW251,523,804 compared to 2016 which is at ZMW116,759,240. Wasteful expenditure for 2015 was valued at ZMW39,854,959 while 2016 has recorded ZMW 3,586,879. Overpayments for 2015 were ZMW 26,559,013 while 2016 recorded ZMW 1,061,247. Other categories making steady progress include unvouched expenditure, irregular payments, non-recovery of advances and loans, among others.
As per practice, institutions are given time to respond and resolve highlighted issues before they are published in the report. This, therefore, means that any outstanding matter can be resolved. If a matter is not being addressed despite being given adequate time, it is worrisome indeed and very detrimental to the nation.
Mitigation of the issues in the report requires close adherence to rules and regulations, ethos, ethics, values and strong morals.
Improvements are yet to be made in areas such as misapplication of funds, unaccounted-for revenue, unaccounted-for funds, unretired accountable imprest, unaccounted-for stores and non-submission of expenditure returns, among others.
I would like to commend the procurement fraternity for scoring such a tremendous change in following the procurement procedures in 2016 compared to 2015. This result has been attributed to many factors.
Procurement professionals must always strive to serve with integrity, excellence and professionalism. You are the advisers to the controlling officers on procurement matters. As such, your contribution should be meaningful and bear fruits which will be enjoyed by your procuring entity and ultimately by the whole nation and in the process addressing all the concerns raised in reports such as the Auditor General’s report. Little would you realise that by so doing you will be contributing to the overall economic growth of the country. Section 72 of the Public Procurement Act, Regulations 2 (1) and 3 of the Public Procurement Regulations, read together with the code of conduct, responsibly guide procurement professionals and other public officers on how to conduct themselves especially when it comes to utilisation of public finances.
Zambia today has so many learned professionals in almost every profession who are capable of handling matters of every kind. Let us professionally, ethically and morally offer our services to this nation. Egocentric attitude benefits an individual at the expense of many vulnerable citizens. For instance, who doesn’t know that imprest must be retired after an activity has been conducted? Why don’t we retire it? The figure for 2016 on imprest has escalated because we are collectively not doing the right thing. When we misappropriate or misapply funds, we risk not achieving what was planned. This has a negative effect in implementing our agenda. Let us be a shining example in Africa and beyond.
The efforts of Zambia Public Procurement Authority (ZPPA), Zambia Institute of Purchasing and Supply (ZIPS) and the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) may not go unnoticed in ensuring that the country is up to date with procurement practice. This largely ensures that the nation is being economically steered in the right direction as far as procurement is concerned.
The author is the chairperson for Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) Zambia.