AUDITOR GENERAL ‘ABANDONS’ AGRIC AUDIT…as PS refuses to avail fertiliser documents

Auditor General Dick Sichembe


…as PS refuses to avail fertiliser documents

By Staff Reporters

AUDITOR General Dick Sichembe has threatened to stop auditing the Ministry of Agriculture following permanent secretary Green Mbozi’s failure to provide the requested information and documents, a source at Cabinet Office has revealed.

The source said it was unprecedented for a permanent secretary, who is also a controlling officer, to willfully refuse to provide the Office of the Auditor General with information or documents in the course of his duties because that is not only unprofessional but also illegal.

“This matter has raised concern and a lot of interest in the government circles. We are all waiting to see what action the Secretary to the Cabinet and Secretary to the Treasury will take against this erring permanent secretary because the Auditor General has alerted them about his behaviour,” the source said. “Some of us have seen the five-page letter from the Auditor to the PS which he copied to SC (Secretary to the Cabinet), ST (Secretary to the Treasury) and the Attorney General complaining against the PS’ failure to provide the requested information.”

In this letter to Mbozi, dated February 24, 2023, the Auditor General complained that his office was having challenges to audit the ministry for the financial year ended 31st December 2022 because information was not forthcoming. Dr Sichembe complained that this failure would affect his capacity to produce the audit report in line with the deadlines as enshrined in the national Constitution.

“You will agree with me that your continued failure or inertia to provide requested information is therefore against the legal and professional requirements,” Dr Sichembe wrote quoting section 83 (1) (k) of the public finance management Act which criminalises failure to provide requested information.

“The failure to provide the requested information may result in my office failing to meet its Constitutional mandate with regard to timelines for the financial report and the audit report.”

He cited Article 211 (2) of the Constitution of Zambia which requires his office to render an audit opinion on the financial report of the Republic not later than May 31 in each year. Dr Sichembe also referred to circular number 1 of 2020 from his office which requires audited entities to provide requested information not later than 10 days after it has been requested for, in order to meet the constitutional deadlines.

“Further, by Article 212 of the Constitution, my office is required not later than 30th September of each year to submit a Report on the Accounts of the Republic to the President and National Assembly,” he indicated. “Considering that deadlines relating to audit are enshrined in the Constitution, the timely provision of information by audited entities for audit purposes is critical to meeting these constitutionally stipulated deadlines.”

For this reason, Dr Sichembe gave Mbozi up to Friday, March 3, 2023 to provide the information failure to which he would abandon auditing the Ministry of Agriculture.

“In the event that you do not favourably respond to this request by the deadline, I will not be in a position to continue auditing your ministry,” wrote Dr Sichembe. “I have taken the liberty to copy in the Secretary to the Cabinet and the Attorney General for them to appreciate the challenges facing my office in carrying out its constitutional mandate. As the Chief Controlling Officer of the government as per Article 183 (3) of the Constitution and section 6 of the public finance management Act, the Secretary to the Treasury is also in copy herein. For ease of reference, I have attached copies of requests for information and queries issued to your ministry to date…”

Among the requested information include suppliers’ ledgers for the supply and delivery of fertiliser, seed, army worms chemicals and protective clothing.

Others are various contracts and their addenda, evaluation reports for the various procurements, payment ledgers, various solicitation and bid documents, various minutes, Farmer Input Support Programme files for all contract managers and for each province and reports on all claims or pay-out made per beneficiary clearly indicating the year the claim was made, amounts claimed, province, district and camp and reasons for payments.

Dr Sichembe complained that despite several reminders, this information has not been availed from early January 2023 when his office began auditing the Ministry of Agriculture. The controlling officer is mandated to provide the information with 10 days, following the request for information.


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