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PAC roasts councils over tender lapses

STEVEN MVULA, Lusaka
THE Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is outraged by the failure by public officers to scrutinise tender applications to avoid losing taxpayers’ money through fraud.
The PAC, chaired by Choma Central legislature Cornelius Mweetwa (UPND) which yesterday sat for nearly seven hours, learnt that Kalomo district was sold faulty earthmoving equipment for Mapatizya constituency by Techmeer which government investigative wings are probing.
This was when Local Government and Housing permanent secretary Stanford Msichili alongside town clerks and council secretaries from over 70 municipalities appeared before the PAC to respond to queries in the 2013 Auditor General’s report on Constituency Development Fund (CDF) and grants.
“When you appeared last time, we agreed to trace Techmeer through Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the International Police. Techmeer is non-existent. Why didn’t you sensitise councils to avoid dealing with Techmeer?”
asked Catherine Namugala, member of Parliament for Mafinga.
Mr Mweetwa said the committee is saddened that a government ministry charged with the responsibility of delivering goods and services to people is leading in financial fraud.
“CDF is central to development. It is the only money local people have authority over but a large chunk is abused by council workers,” Mr Mweetwa said.
He chided council town clerks and council secretaries for the rampant abuse of public resources.
“You should be ashamed of your council to appear before here.
You parade your PS (permanent secretary) over things you have direct control. This is pure whitecollar fraud,” Mr Mweetwa said.
Mr Mweetwa said the huge delegation of the council officials at PAC is another wastage of taxpayers’ money.
“You are front liners in development. Take charge and ensure that people receive the services and goods they deserve,” he said.
And Mr Msichili confirmed that there was something “fishy” about Techmeer.
He said the Zambia Police Service, the Drug Enforcement Commission and the Anti-Corruption Commission are still investigating the shadowy company that has defrauded municipalities out of millions of kwacka.
Mr Msichili said he does not take pleasure in appearing before PAC and he is striving to make the ministry have zero audit queries.
“A human being is a difficult creature. We write to colleagues on the ground to ensure that things are done correctly but they still flout the rules,” he said.
Chama North MP January Zimba (PF) advised Mr Msichili to take “charge” so that public resources are protected.
“If you don’t manage your people, they will bring you down. So take charge and be on top of things,” Mr Zimba said.

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