Secretary to the Cabinet, Patrick Kangwa, has urged controlling officers and members of controlling bodies to take matters of financial management and audit seriously or risk attracting consequences.
Mr Kangwa said controlling officers should ensure that necessary steps are taken to prevent audit queries or resolve them in time if they occur.
He said erring officers may face punitive actions in line with the Public Finance Management Act No. 1 of 2018 if they do not avoid actions that may attract audit queries.
The Secretary to the Cabinet regretted the continued reports of the Auditor General, citing the financial year ended December 31, 2021 and the report on management of government payroll for the period 2016 to 2021 which revealed significant financial irregularities.
Mr Kangwa further stated that the irregularities could have been avoided if institutions named in the reports had followed applicable laws, regulations and guidelines that govern the management of public resources.
He said this at the official opening of the controlling officers’ sensitisation workshop in Lusaka which has been organised by the Office of the Auditor General to explain the audit processes, recurring audit queries and new developments in audit.
Mr Kangwa has since commended the initiative of assisting controlling officers to understand the audit process and their roles in public accountability thereby promoting transparency, accountability and prudent management of public resources to serve the needs of the citizens.
He referred to President Hakainde Hichilema’s directive for responsible officers to cut down on wastage of resources by making procurements at the right time and price, and ensure quality for prudent utilisation of public resources.
“I implore you, beyond this workshop, to engage the Office of the Auditor General, Accountant General and Controller of Internal Audit on matters affecting the management and utilisation of public resources,” Mr Kangwa said.
He also revealed that the government will revive the audit oversight mechanism to deal with matters of audit and how to prevent financial mismanagement.
And Auditor General, Dick Sichembe, appealed to controlling officers and bodies to prioritise fiscal discipline through enhanced transparency and accountability, in order to achieve the government’s agenda of transforming the country.
Dr Sichembe explained that his office will remain aggressive in its quest to ensure public resources are protected from abuse and misuse especially with the economic challenges that the country has continued to face.
The workshop was being held under the theme ‘understanding the work of the Office of the Auditor General’.
Meanwhile, Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chairperson, Warren Mwambazi, hoped that the engagement between the Office of the Auditor General and controlling officers will assist in supporting the delivery of public services through well managed public financial management.
Mr Mwambazi said the transition from focusing on audit queries at parliamentary hearings to discussing solutions was aimed at reducing causes of audit queries.
He stressed that controlling officers have a responsibility of planning, controlling revenue collection and managing expenditure of public funds but acknowledged that lapses have been discovered.
Mr Mwambazi said Zambia can only develop if officers play their role in ensuring that public resources are managed and utilised in a prudent, efficient and effective manner.