By Daniel Chigundu
Ministries were spending their budget allocations from as far as 2014 without authority to spend from Ministry of Finance leading to over expenditure, Parliament has heard.
When Parliament approves a budget, the Accountant General in the Ministry of Finance is supposed to issue them with warrants to spend the money.
The warrant to spend is tied to each ministry’s approved budget and doesn’t not only give spending permission but also spending limit within the budgeted year and are an important document for budget review.
However, appearing before the Public Accounts Committee, government Chief Accountant Daniel Muchemwa revealed that he has not been issuing warrants from as far as 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 up to 2018.
“We have been spending against the approved budget but without issuing warrants,” he said.
Asked why he was not issuing warrants as required by the law and whether his actions did not constitute willful non-compliance with the country’s public finance laws, Muchemwa could not answer.
However, during this period (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018) most ministries went on to spend more than what they were allocated in the various budgets leading to trails of over-expenditure and misuse of funds.
When probed why the ministry did not approach Parliament with supplementary budgets when they realised that they had overspent, the accountant general said there was no need because the money had already been spent and that he is now in the process of doing additional budget estimates for 2016.
“When I realise we have overshot by $2.5 billion I can’t ask for a supplementary budget, a supplementary budget is going to Parliament to say give me the authority to spend, if I have already spent the money.
“We are in the process of doing 2016, 2017 additional budget estimates and we will also do for 2018,” he said.
However, this is not in line with constitutional provisions especially Section 307 (1) and (2) which provides for procedure and time frames for the tabling of supplementary budgets.
Section 307 (Unauthorised expenditure) says “(1) If it is found that more money has been expended on a purpose that was appropriated to it in terms of this Part, or that money has been expended on a purpose for which no money was appropriated under this Part, the Minister responsible for finance must introduce a Bill into the National Assembly seeking condonation of the unauthorised expenditure.
“(2) The Bill referred to in subsection (1) must be introduced into the National Assembly without delay and in any event no later than sixty days after the extent of the unauthorised expenditure has been established.
The Accountant General has also not been submitting quarterly financial statements to the Auditor General, despite being reminded on several occasions and in some other cases he would just submit statements without the required supporting documents.
In his own testimony, Muchemwa told Parliament that since he became accountant general, he has never submitted a quarterly financial statement on time adding that he is playing catch-up.
Meanwhile, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance George Guvamatanga has said he is still comfortable to work with the Accountant General adding that he is, however, doing a review of people and systems at the ministry.
“At the moment we still have confidence in the accountant general until I conclude the full review process of the people, processes and systems and so I have to still stand by this position but everything is under review that’s all I can tell the committee.
“People are under review, processes are under review and systems are under review and it’s still on-going so once I have concluded I might then have a different answer but at this particular time I am comfortable with people around me,” he said.
He, however, revealed that he shares the same concern with the committee and that he actually has more issues he has picked up at the ministry than what the committee has picked.-