Some government departments at Phalombe District Council are failing to pay for services that they obtained from various suppliers in the district after issuing out huge amounts in allowances to auditors from the National Audit Office, Nyasa Times understands.
Some of the sectors that obtained the services are failing to settle their bills after the Auditors swindled them include the District Agriculture Development Office, District Fisheries Office and the District Health.
According to information on the ground, Auditors from the National Audit Office were in the district for 34 days to check on how sectors under the council have been using government money, but midway their audit exercise they started requesting money from the district council as they allegedly had exhausted their allowances for the job and were going to leave the district without finishing the audit work.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, one senior sector head at the council confided in Nyasa Times that after the Auditors told them that they had used up their allowances and they wanted more money, the District Commissioner Harry Phiri told sectors that were being audited to contribute money to give to the auditors as allowances.
“The District Commissioner convened a meeting on August 22, 2017 in which departments such as Youth, Labor, Housing, Fisheries, Irrigation, National Registration Bureau, Environment, Water, Health and Agriculture (just to mention a few) were asked to contribute the money. We did so and an amount of over 2 Million Kwacha was realized and was handed over to the two auditors who came,” said the disgruntled Officer.
He further indicated that big sectors such as Health, Agriculture, Education, Labor and Ministry of Gender were contributing K300 000 each while small sectors that make 80 percent of the government sectors were coughing K20, 000 to top up the amount.
Nyasa Times’ investigation further revealed that some sectors are consequently failing to pay over 10 suppliers of goods and services who served them and the only excuse they have been giving is that they could not afford to pay them as the auditors stripped them off their funding.
One service provider who provided services to the District Health Office but did not want to be known for fear of being sidelined in business, revealed to Nyasa Times that he has not been paid for work that he did in February – March 2017, and currently he has been advised to wait until later because his money was given to Auditors.
“After making me wait for five months, this month they told me that I had to continue waiting because there was not enough money; however within the DHO’s office a friend told me that I was one of the people whose payments had to be held again in order for the office to pay off the Auditors,” said the source, adding that he had no choice but to take the option as the district council is the only sourcd that gives him lucrative business.
The source said he was struggling to run his business because the K800, 000 that the department owes him makes a large chunk of his capital.
In a separate interview, a member of the district council’s accounts team alleged that this was not the first time within this audit that the Auditors asked for money as they also pocketed K200 000 each upon arrival and 200 liters of fuel plus a Land Cruiser for them to be using on field visits despite having already been given fuel from the National Audit Office.
Asked to comment on the allegations leveled against his council, District Commissioner for Phalombe Harry Phiri, who shunned questions from the media on the matter, later described it as mere hearsay.
“This is just hearsay and it’s not newsworthy ma bwana,” the DC told reporters who had to be striding after him as he walked away.
Nyasa Times understands that however a day later when he noted that the issue was becoming serious the Commissioner convened all media practitioners in the district to ask them not to publish anything about it as jobs and lives could be at stake.
Another rude commenter on the issue was District Agriculture Development Officer Jackson Mkombezi, who when asked whether his sector contributed money for the Auditors, simply shouted at the reporters, telling them to go to hell where they can get answers on the matter.
However, commenting on the matter Chairperson of the District Council’s finance committees Councilor Damson Chiphaka questioned the credibility of the auditors who were feasting on money from the same council that they were supposed to audit.
“Normally when there is an audit exercise happening we expect that the Auditors will produce a report which indicates whether there were irregularities and make recommendations on the same, but in this case where the Auditors pocketed over 2 Million Kwacha from the Council, one has to ask themselves whether such Auditors can reveal any irregularity found within the process,” said Chiphaka.
Chiphaka was not short of words when he further described the acts of the district council secretariat as suspicious and calling for a thorough audit.
On his part Spokesperson for the National Audit Office Radson Chagwam’minga asked for more time to dig into the matter before commenting.
However on a lighter note he indicated that when their office is sending out Auditors to work in a district they provide them with all needs for survival such as allowances and fuel for all their working days.
Said Chagwam’minga; “They are always well provided for, however if there are any arrangements for additional money due to overstaying then our office is notified and we liaise with the particular district council for such an arrangement to happen.”
However evidence currently available to this publication clearly show that the arrangement was locally made without the knowledge of the National Audit Office with aims that only the district council in question can explain.
The year 2017 has been sour for Phalombe District Council when it has been making news through many bad ways such as development funds mismanagement and poor construction of structures under government money.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :