Remove PS Mbozi from office, Musenge urges HH

Mwenya Musenge.

Remove PS Mbozi from office, Musenge urges HH

By Edwin Mbulo in Livingstone

QUICKLY act and remove Green Mbozi from office, former Copperbelt Minister Mwenya Musenge advises President Hakainde Hichilema.
Recently, Auditor General Dick Sichembe threatened to stop auditing the Ministry of Agriculture following permanent secretary Mbozi’s failure to provide the requested information and documents.

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.

Commenting on matter, Musenge, who is Alliance for People’s Prosperity (APP) leader, said it is unheard of for a permanent secretary or any institution to deny the Auditor General’s Office access to documents for auditing.

“It is insolence on the part of the controlling officer and high levels of insubordination to the appointing authority and arrogance of the highest level, lack for a better word to express this unfortunate situation. The appointing authority should quickly act to remove such an officer from office. He should instantly be dismissed,” Musenge said.

He said the Auditor General’s Office is an institution that has the right to pounce on any government institution to enhance accountability, honest and transparency which the UPND preaches.

Musenge said the government should lead the way by opening up offices to audit.
“We are aware that the Auditor General, himself is having issues to do with the ACC, but that does not mean the entire Auditor General’s Office should stop functioning. If anything the UPND should help to enhance capacity in such institutions like the Auditor General, the ACC and DEC for prudent governance and utilisation of national resources,” said Musenge.


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