……”Use of external auditors without recourse to the Office of the Auditor General, is illegal”
By Amb. Emmanuel Mwamba
The statement by the Minister of Health, Hon Silvia Masebo to call for external auditors to supervise the recruitment of 11,200 health workers, the Ministry’s payroll and to audit health facilities, is shocking.
While there could be need for audit and consulting services to audit health facilities, reconcile and clean-up the payroll and ensure that the recruitment of health workers is done above board, such functions are constitutional and procedures are laid out on how they should be done.
It is for this reason that the Office of the Auditor General exists.
The Office of the Auditor General is the only supreme audit institution in Zambia mandated to audit all government institutions, parastatal organizations, statutory boards, donor funded agencies and any other institute in which public resources have been invested.
It is in extreme rare circumstances that external entities are sub-contracted or out-sourced.
Further, if Ms. Masebo suspects corruption in the recruitment process, she can also involve the Anti-Corruption Commission or similar law enforcement agencies in the process.
Unfortunately, the use of external auditors without recourse to the constitutional Office of the Auditor General or following set procurement processes, has increased under President Hakainde Hichilema’s government.
Recently, an unknown company, MVC Consultants and a Mr Lovemore Mbita Chifunda, were illegally hired by the Permanent Secretary at Ministry of Agriculture to audit the Farmers Input Support Programme (FISP)- the Government’s agriculture input subsidy programme.
There are other government entities where private audit firms are being hired to do the work and services which fall directly under the ambit of the Office of the Auditor General.
President Hakainde Hichilema, having come from a private audit and consulting firm, may easily be accused of illegally facilitating the procurement of audit and consulting services from his previous professional networks, in clear breach of the Republican Constitution.
And Masebo’s disclosure of names of purported ghost facilities under the Ministry of Health, is questionable as a quick verification will expose her statement as based on lies again.
Speaking shortly after a Covid-19 briefing, Ms. Masebo revealed that following the verification of nine out of 10 provinces, Nangoma Mission Hospital, Macha Hospital, Monze Hospital, and Kalabo Rural Health Center are some of the non-existent facilities detected.
She further disclosed that her Ministry has since written to Cabinet Office to seek authority to engage an external auditor to audit health facilities including the on-going recruitment of 11,276 workers.
For starters,we know that Nangoma Mission Hospital exists.
And Ms Masebo, despite having served in Government as Cabinet Minister in the last twenty years, appears not to know her boundaries and by her own numerous pronouncements is exposed as overreaching in matters of administration, technical, procurement and controlling, which functions fall under the controlling officer, the Permanent Secretary.