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Auditing the defence force under the New Doom Government

ColumnsAuditing the defence force under the New Doom Government

By Given Lubinda

The subject of the auditing of the Defence Forces under the New Doom government raises a number of fundamental questions on where we are going as a country.

On Friday 11th November, 2022, the Vice President was asked by Lukashya PF Member of Parliament, George Chisanga whether the government put out a tender when subcontracting Grant Thornton and Price-Waters and Coppers – foreign audit firms – to audit Zambia’s Defence and Security wings. In her response, the Vice President (who is chief representative of the President in Parliament) said “I think that generally I would not know exactly how they did it. But whichever way they did it, as long as it is within the law in contracting the people that have been given the contract. I don’t know as I sit here whether the Auditor General put up an open tender. Whether it was a selective tender, whether it was single sourcing……………………..Colleagues, whoever does the audit, we believe that it must be truthful audit report. It doesn’t really, it should not bother us.” (Mast Newspaper No. 3095 – SM318 – November 12, 2022).

Unlike Mrs Nalumango who is not bothered about who audits our defence and security wings, all Zambians ought to be concerned. Auditing of government institutions, let alone the Defence and Security wings of the country is a matter of very serious concern to anyone who has some understanding of sovereignty and governance. This is the reason why we have legal provisions on how audits of government and quasi-government institutions including the Defence Forces are to be carried out.

In consideration of the importance of government audits, the office of the Auditor General is constitutional. Article 249 of the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) N0. 2 0f 2016 establishes the office of the Auditor General. Article 250 provides the functions of the Auditor General and specifically states at sub-article (1)

“The Auditor General shall-
(a) audit the accounts of -?
(i) State organs, State institutions, provincial administration and local authorities; and
(ii) Institutions financed from public funds.”
In keeping with international best practices and for the avoidance of interference with the operations of the Office of the Auditor General, states as follows at Article 250 (1) “The Auditor General shall-
(a) audit the accounts of -?
(iii) State organs, State institutions, provincial administration and local authorities; and Institutions financed from public funds.”

In operationalising the constitutional provisions relating to the Auditor General, the Public Audit Act 2016 was enacted to “enhance the independence and autonomy of the National Audit Office and strengthen its functions; provide a framework for promoting efficiency, accountability, effectiveness and transparency of public administration through effective oversight and audit of public funds and performance ………”

Section 5(1) of the Act states the function of the Auditor General is to perform audits under the Public Finance (Management) Act 2004 (amended in 2018).

The Public Finance Management Act 2018 is an “Act to provide for an institutional and regulatory framework for management of public funds; the strengthening of accountability, oversight, management and control of public funds in the public financial management framework..” etc

Part VII of the said Act provides for how External Audits are to be carried out. Section 73 (1) states that “The Auditor General and an office holder agent or specialist consultant authorised by the Auditor General, shall in the performance of duties under the Constitution, The Public Audit Act, 2016 or any other law –
(a) have access to all the books, records, returns, reports, other documents and financial management systems, in electronic or any other form, relating to the accounts of public bodies as the Auditor General considers necessary: etc

However Section 5(2) provides a very clear and distinct exception:

5(2) Despite anything contained in subsection (1) and subject to subsection (3) the Auditor General shall not authorise any agent or specialist consultant – (a) to have access to any books, records, return, reports, information, communication technology systems and other documents, or to enter upon any premises, of any component of the Defence Force or the Zambia Intelligence Service; or (b) ………………………………………………., if such access or entry is likely to-(i) Prejudice the security, defence or international relations of the Republic or the investigation or detection of offences;”
To understand the above subsection clearly it is necessary to refer also to subsection 5(3) which states as follows:
5(3) Despite subsection (2), the Auditor General may, where the circumstances of an audit so require after obtaining the written consent of the President, authorise an agent or specialist consultant –
(a) to have access to any books, records, return, reports, information, communication technology systems and other documents, or to enter upon any premises, of any component of the Defence Force or the Zambia Intelligence Service;

Based on the above provisions of the law, the Executive through the Ministry of Finance, by hiring private audit firms to conduct audits has grossly violated Article 250 (1)

“The Auditor General shall-
(a) audit the accounts of -?
(i) State organs, State institutions, provincial administration and local authorities; and Institutions financed from public funds.” and
250 (2) “The Auditor General shall not be subject to the direction or control of a person or an authority in the performance of the functions of office.” (Secretary to Treasury is quoted in Vol. 8 Issue 3481 of November 15, 2022 of the Daily Nation Newspaper as saying “It was signed between the Ministry of Finance and the firms so contracted.”)

Secondly whoever signed the contract at the Ministry of Finance breached the provisions of Subsection 3 of Section 5 of the Public Finance Management Act 2018 which provides that the President must issue written consent for any agent or specialist consultant to have access to any books, records, return, reports, information, communication technology systems and other documents, or to enter upon any premises, of any component of the Defence Force or the Zambia Intelligence Service.

Thirdly, the Attorney General has either failed in his duty to advise the Executive or has been disregarded in his role as Chief Legal Advisor of the Government in the execution of the contract in question.

Fourthly, the Vice President’s admission of ignorance in Parliament over such an important national matter is an indication of either how she is totally disregarded in the governance of the country or how she is simply a non-informed parliament figurehead.

Fifthly, the President’s sole mandate to authorise any agent or specialist consultant to audit Defence Forces has been usurped.

Sixthly, the matter has been in the public domain since Friday and there has been no clarification from either Secretary to Cabinet or from State House. This deafening silence can only be construed to mean that there is more to this case than has been divulged by the Ministry of Finance. We shall wait for the unfolding of the Auditgate.

Given Lubinda
Acting President
Patriotic Front.

18 COMMENTS

  1. There’s a commercial and residential real estate boom in Lusaka without any commercial banks lending money to this sector. Where’s the money coming from? Does Given Lubinda want to know?

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  2. “Don’t imitate my behavior but obey my instructions.”

    Political parties acknowledge that their actions are in direct opposition to their words not upholding the standards that they demand from GRZ and others.

    Political parties are above the law; the rules do not apply to them.

    Self-righteous politician would tell you: “Follow my advice, it’s very good advice, so do as I say, even though I don’t do these things myself.”

    GRZ What’s going on? Why is it taking too long for political parties to illustrate you after so many years of independence?

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  3. We spend so much time and resources to enact Laws which we in no time disregard without consequence. Apart from paranoia, the UPND’s major weakness is arrogance. To them as long as the man at the top has decided then so shall it be and whoever expresses any dissent is a PF thief that’s frustrated because the loophole has been plugged. Zambia isn’t made up of PF and UPND alone, there are many of us stakeholders that outnumber the combined PF & UPND membership. There’s no single political party in Zambia that has more than a million members. So stop being unreasonable. When consequences for these violation strike it’d look like you’re being persecuted yet you’ve created your own problems

  4. Mr Lubinda, it’s pointless publishing articles when you know very well that Zambians are not very good at reading and articulating things very well. Just as they trust government to run national affairs on their behalf, they also trust you to use the law in parliament to prevent and safeguard the nation’s interest on behalf of the people of this great nation. We need you to go to work in parliament and use the law to explain to us why using a private firm with vested interest in the countries resources is a bad idea. We need to block this in a civilised manner.

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  5. We are into the fix and mix all the laws are going to be broken and sorry that even people in high positions are unable to understand the law,some out of ignorance and some knowingly abrogating the law and too bad that even the ones to protect the constitution are in front abrogating the law.Were honestly are we going.Its total pandamoniom.Has if that is not enough they have this far now mmmmmmm honestly………!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. We are into the fix and mix all the laws are going to be broken and sorry that even people in high positions are unable to understand the law,some out of ignorance and some knowingly abrogating the law and too bad that even the ones to protect the constitution are in front abrogating the law.Were honestly are we going.Its total pandamoniom.Has if that is not enough they have gone this far now mmmmmmm honestly………!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Lubinda has raised a valid point here let us look at this, Can Russia or America give an international company to audit their security wings? the answer is no why Muzambia. reverse this contracts and give it to the office of the Auditor general. that is why we have employed them.

  8. Maybe this is a good point.

    Meanwhile what a haphazard bookshelf. One question is whether he models himself on Escobar or on Ghandi. Another is why 2 copies of Notorious Men?

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  9. How come there so many RICH Generals in this country? Audit them! All those against engaging independent Auditors must have shared the resources meant for our armed forces and are scared to be found out. Bogus suppliers!

  10. I don’t think that you ,Given Lubinda is qualified to offer any advice. As part of the looting & plunderers of the PF who stole massively in the last regime, we don’t listen to losers & thieves like you. So pls STFU!

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  11. Why are these guys who were in power so scared of an audit. are they worried about what will be revealed?
    In most civilised countries independent consultants carry out audits on behalf of the government.

  12. “I think that generally I would not know exactly how they did it.”
    This ignorance wouldn’t have passed without challenge in the British parliament

  13. The VP should have told the house how the technicalities of an audit work including that the Auditor General is perhaps ALLOWED to source private auditors under his purview. To say what she said is bordering scandal. It is like a government willing to sleep at the wheel. Also, this now opens the floodgates to politics for nothing… or perhaps that’s the snare she wants to lay? Not a good one.

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