EVERY year, the Auditor-General’s report gives a gloomy picture of financial irregularities in statutory institutions across the country.
What is more worrying is that the situation seems to worsen every year.
For instance, the Auditor-General’s report for the financial year ended December 31, 2016 is not any better than the previous ones.
The financial irregularities highlighted in the report are depressing for any patriotic and progressive Zambian.
The 2016 report has highlighted glaring financial irregularities, where unaccounted for revenue has increased from K558,499 in 2015 to K3,700,509 in 2016 while misapplication of funds has increased from K28,153,997 in 2015 to K162,095,699 in 2016.
The report further reveals that unaccounted for funds have increased from K193,910 in 2015 to K386,834 in 2016.
Unretired accountable imprest increased from K12,659,892 in 2015 to K17,559,399 in 2016 and unaccounted for stores increased from K13,460,323 in 2015 to K14,428,573 in 2016, among others.
Although unvouched expenditure seemed to have reduced from K349, 306,160 in 2015 to K170,559,399 in 2016, it is still the highest ranking irregularity for the period under review and continues to be an area of high concern.
While the Auditor-General’s Office has been consistent in furnishing the public with these reports, one thing has been missing – action against erring officers.
This has attracted negative criticism from a wide section of society describing the AG’s report as an academic exercise and a mere waste of resources.
True to their concerns, of what value is the report if it cannot help curb financial irregularities other than just depressing law-abiding citizens with alarming statistics.
This concern was also raised by President Lungu, who recently called on the Anti-Corruption Commission to do their job in relation to the findings in the Auditor-General’s report.
President Lungu was categorical in calling for those found wanting to be investigated and brought to book.
This is the obvious follow-up action expected of our investigative wings once such revelations have been made.
But for many years, this has not been the case, as the AG’s report has been relegated to the shelf, where it was left to gather dust.
This is regardless of the financial investment that goes into producing such a report.
It is, however, heartening to learn that following the recent release of the report, some officers who were cited for financial irregularities have already been suspended.
This is indeed commendable as the action will not only ensure that those found wanting are punished, but will also deter would-be offenders.
As a country that is highly externally funded, we cannot afford to give our funders reason to withdraw their support.
We know very well that external funders prefer to put their money where prudent financial management is assured.
As a country that is still in the developing process, we cannot afford to allow a few individuals to divert funds meant for development into their pockets.
Punitive measures are what we need to deter would-be offenders and curb this vice, which has reared its ugly head in our nation for a long time now.
We, therefore, expect our investigative wings to carry out thorough investigations and get to the bottom of these financial irregularities.
This is the only way to ascertain that the country’s limited financial resources are utilised to the maximum and for the benefit of all citizens.