Editor's Comment

Tighter financial controls a must

IN THE last two years Zambia has seen a slight reduction in the misapplication and misuse of public funds.
However, the Auditor General’s office has continued to unearth misuse of huge sums of money by various grant-aided government and quasi-government institutions.
We are, however, encouraged that Government is committed to strengthening internal controls on public spending through the financial management reform programme.
These reforms should not falter because they are meant to maximise the impact of public resources on the citizens.
Through the reforms Government has been saving a lot of money that would have been misapplied or abused.
And these efforts have not gone unnoticed by the government’s co-operating partners.
This week they committed US$30 million towards the implementation of phase one of the reforms.
We commend the Department for International Development (DfID), Finnish International Development Agency (FINNIDA) and German Development Agency for their support.
Minister of Finance Alexander Chikwanda said on Tuesday that the money will be spent on strengthening internal controls at all institutions that receive funding from the treasury.
Mr Chikwanda said Government expects the strengthened controls to reduce wastage, pilferage and misappropriation of public resources.
It is important that all the money Government mobilises for projects and recurrent expenditure is accounted for and used for the benefit of the citizens.
Prudent application of public resources accelerates development.
Currently, Government is implementing infrastructure development projects in all the provinces of the country to stimulate economic growth and create employment for citizens.
The roads sector is receiving unprecedented funding through the Link Zambia 8000, Pave Zambia, Lusaka 400 and urban roads rehabilitation projects.
These projects are meant to ease the movement of people and goods around the country.
A good road network makes it easier to transport goods and services where they are needed.
It enables those involved in manufacturing to transport inputs and finished products between sources, operation areas and markets.
But there have been examples of some public officers conniving with individuals and private companies to steal money meant for projects and the provision of services.
Huge amounts of money have been paid to suppliers for equipment and other goods they have not delivered.
Contractors have abandoned project sites after receiving substantial down payments.
And the Auditor General’s office has each year been replete with exposes of huge sums of unretired imprest.
We are therefore happy to note that part of the money from Government’s co-operating partners will be used to restructure the Zambia Public Procurement Authority (ZPPA) and strengthen its capacity to play its oversight role effectively and efficiently.
This institution has an important role to play in safeguarding Government resources through the close supervision of the supply chain in the government, parastatal companies and regulatory authorities.
It is just as important as the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA), which will also benefit from the US$30 million funding.
ZRA is mandated to raise revenue for Government through various direct and indirect taxes.
It is this money Government uses to implement various development projects and provide services to its citizens.
But if the utilisation of the resources the authority mobilises is not closely supervised and monitored, the people of Zambia, who are the beneficiaries, will not feel the impact of their government’s efforts.
This is where the internal controls and oversight become even more important.
We urge the Ministry of Finance to remain focused on the implementation of these reforms so that the people of Zambia appreciate the efforts Government is making to improve their living standards.

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