ACCOUNTABILITY: SPOTLIGHT ON TOWN CLERKS AND COUNCIL SECRETARIES
By George Chomba
IF the Public Accounts Committee is your cup of tea because it provided you chance to see how permanent secretaries were chased away from meetings, then the Committee on Local Government Accounts should definitely be your addition.
While most permanent secretaries are made to sweat over their lack of professional handling of public expenditure in the Public Accounts Committee, town clerks and council secretaries, too, are taking a walk of shame over the alleged misuse of Constituency Development Funds (CDF).
In the Public Accounts Committee, followers of Parliament would recall how some permanent secretaries become blank over reasons for signing an expired contract.
Sometimes permanent secretaries fail to give reasons for paying allowances to officers who never attended a workshop.
Those are some of the matters the Warren Mwambazi led Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee has to deal with when it’s the turn of permanent secretaries.
But Parliamentary attention appears to be shifting to town clerks and council secretaries.
Parliament has established the Committee on Local Government Accounts which is chaired by Mr Darius Mulunda who is Siavonga Member of Parliament.
Those who are witnesses to Mr Mwambazi chasing away permanent secretaries for simply failing to answer “Yes” or “No”, should be happy that Mr Mulunda is holding some town clerks and council secretaries in the ‘hell in the cell’ of failure to account for CDF.
“Why are you using companies without capacity when the CDF guidelines allow councils to contract a company from another town with capacity to pass on skills to locals?”
“Why did you pay CDF bursaries when you didn’t establish children who were sponsored?”
The Local Government Committee members of Mr Shakafuswa, Mr Nyambose and others would take turns to ask town clerks and council secretaries.
Of the 116 councils in Zambia, town clerks and council secretaries from local authorities such as Manyinga, Zambezi, Kasempa and Solwezi would like to tell their own stories.
But the point is accountability over CDF budgetary allocation in councils is not a child’s play.
Those who have followed the evolution of the CDF, may remember that it started as pocket change for members of Parliament.
It was not that significant since the MMD administration established the fund in 1996.
The Patriotic Front of Michael Sata and Edgar Lungu found the allocation at K1.6 million and in 2011, left it there when Zambians voted for the UPND.
The entry of the UPND administration in 2021 appears to have changed how the CDF is administered with a significant increase from K1.6 million in 2021 to K25.7 million in 2022 and K28.3 million in 2023.
In the 2024 national budget, each of the 156 constituencies is set to receive K30.6 million.
In his inaugural address, President Hakainde Hichilema said in increasing the allocations of funds from a paltry K1.6 million to now the K30.6 million, he was reallocating money from the big thieves in towns to the real owners of the money in Constituencies.
But if there are some Zambians who thought there would be no accountability under CDF, then they have to think again.
The town clerk and council secretary are sweating to account for CDF expenditure at Parliamentary sittings.
Watch Crown TV Zambia reports from the Parliamentary Committee on Local Government Accounts and you would understand.
CREDIT: Crown Communications Zambia