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EDGAR Chibuta.

Low literacy levels in procurement, accounts departments

I FOUND the counsel in the ‘Accountant journal’, produced by the Zambia Institute of Chartered Accountant (ZICA) (Jan -March 2018 pp 31-32), not only thought provoking but also very interesting to any straight-thinking scholar and promoter of corporate governance in both procurement as well as accountancy professions.The quarterly briefing has for sure raised very cardinal issues in respect to the promotion of corporate governance in both in the private and public sectors as well as the challenges that need to be overcome if we are to excel and bring sanity to the two professions. ZICA has raised, on page 33, five points that have evidently proved to be a source of financial scandals in both sectors and with potential to affect the smooth operations of the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) if not checked.
The first point highlights the low quality of people who are appointed to serve in the financial and procurement positions, contrary to the legal provisions of the Public Procurement Act (Number 12 of 2008).
While the cited Act is clear on the need for people serving in the procurement positions to be qualified and competent, ZICA has found that the quality of some of the those appointed to serve in procurement and accountancy sections or positions is highly questionable and is mainly compounded with the low financial literacy levels. Where then is the source of the cited grey areas?
The Human Resource Department, in both the public and the private sectors, must work hard and ensure that only those who are qualified, competent and of high integrity are recommended for promotion and employed and the latter must be capable of possessing the highest degree of business acumen to read and, above all, understand the micro and macro writings on the wall that are affecting the world we live in.
The Human Resource Function, in line with section 15(4c) of the cited PPA (2008), must ensure that only those that have proven to be of higher integrity are selected and later recommended to serve in both the financial as well as the procurement departments as the case is with those who are selected to sit in the Procurement Committee in Zambia as the PPA (2008) dictates.
What the Human Resource experts, at all levels of operation in Zambia, need to realise is that Zambia is not in short supply of people who are honest, qualified and competent enough to serve in various procurement and accountancy portfolios considering the number of universities that have been given the licence to train people in various disciplines of which accountancy and procurement are part.
We have on several occasions pin pointed the biased view from Human Resource experts in regard to the recommendation of people for employment and promotion and in most cases our cries have either been rebutted and pushed with impunity as based on sheer malice however the revelations, as contained in the Accountant Journal (ZICA) have vindicated our claims that something has for sure gone amiss in the way people are appointed and promoted. Surely how can we promote people who are dishonest and above all unable to read financial statistics affecting their respective professions? Food for thought HR!
A pool of ill-qualified people appointed, as a result of deliberate carelessness in recommendation from those entrusted with responsibility to preside over financial public resources, is a swift vehicle that has the ability to drive the organisation into a maze of weak internal control systems and this is applicable in any sector one can think of.
It is therefore very painful to note that in both public and private sectors, as noted in the ZICA journal, some workers or personnel that are honest and competent are swiftly driven to the lonely island of abject poverty just because such can never be seen by those entrusted to recommend (or superintend the process of employing).
That is what beats my heart to the fullest. Internal controls are lacking in both the public and private sectors because some people mandated to recommend human resource for employment and promotion are biased and above all corrupt to the core.
I see the Human Resource function in any set up as one that is of great importance and one that must prove that its seat in the senior management structure is worth having and above all preserving.
People need to be measured objectively, and not subjectively, before being recommended for upgrading, regrading, placement, appointment or promotion and the burden of this duty lies in the hands of the Human Resource department as the adviser to management on issues related to human resource.
The ZICA quarterly report is therefore and for sure a sharp slap in the face of the Human Resource function and has gone down to pinpoint the evil injustice behind the poor quality of workers employed and recommended to serve in both the procurement and accountancy profession. Poor and reckless appointments are therefore the cause of voluminous audit queries that have been highlighted in many documents that have been brought to the fold.
It is therefore worrisome to note that financial literacy levels, among some of those serving in the Procurement and Accountancy departments, are very low when it is evident that the two professions require ardent readers of not only dynamics, micro and macro statistics but pieces of regulations and Acts of Parliament affecting their respective professions.
Reading word for word the PPA (2008) and the public procurement regulations (2012) is the surest way of promoting the fairness and much talked about Corporate Governance in procurement in general.
The Human Resource department therefore needs to be on the lookout for people who have the potential to promote corporate governance and the highest level of professionalism in any profession.
The call for professionalism therefore lies in the hands of the Human Resource department because power has been decentralised to the lower organs of governance and only what is recommended for promotion, regrading, disciplining…, by the Human Resource department, is what is presented to the powers that be to act upon.
Recommending a clique of wrong people will not help the country in any way and the right time to do the right thing is now when the sun is still shining.
The author is procurement assistant, Chavuma Education Board Secretary’s office.