By CHARITY MOONGA –
THE Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday took the Ministry of Transport, Works, Supply and Communications Permanent Secretary Charles Simpanje to task over the misapplication of funds in excess of K12 million.
The funds were meant for building a five-storey building for the ministry but werediverted to buy VIP vehicles and furniture for new ministers, deputies and permanent secretaries.
The committee, led by MMD Chipangali Member of Parliament Vincent Mwale, grilled Mr Simpanje for buying VIP vehicles and furniture worth K7 million and K5 million,respectively, despite the funds being earmarked for infrastructure development.
Mr Simpanje admitted that there was no provision for the vehicles and the furniture, but that there was pressure to buy the vehicles and new furniture for the new Government in 2012.
The misapplication was raised in the Auditor General’s report on the ministry for the financial year ending December 31, 2012.
Mr Simpanje said he regretted the misapplication of the funds, adding that the creation and implementation of a single account by the treasury would assist curb misapplication of funds.
“I regret the misapplication of the funds meant for infrastructure development and the treasury will assist us to cushion the impact.
“The six-storey building has since been completed. This kind of misapplication will not be seen in future,” he said.
The committee also took Mr Simpanje to task over failure to implement a street lighting project which could not proceed because the contractor did not meet the conditions.
The funds for the project were borrowed but never reimbursed.
The committee also noted that the contract for the resurfacing of the Chirundu border post parking pavement, which was signed on December 3, 2010, was paid K290, 477, 900 one year after the contract was signed, on December 14, 2011, leading to the escalation of the contract sum.
The MPs also raised queries on the construction of the border infrastructure at Katimamulilo, and complained of poor workmanship and non-functional boreholes.
The PAC was also concerned about works on the Kasama International airport and Mansa Airstrip, which remain incomplete despite money for the projects being available.
The committee was concerned about the failure to follow procurement procedure in the engagement of a consultant for the Mansa Airstrip works and cancellation of the contract due to poor workmanship.
Mr Simpanje had a tough time explaining to the committee the irregular sale of motor vehicles contrary to lease agreements and the questionable pricing of the vehicles.
He begged for the indulgence of the committee to allow him time to make more clarifications on the issues.
Auditor General Anna Chifungula, who was in attendance, questioned the drilling of two boreholes at K82, 000 which later dried up.
PF Chama North MP January Zimba warned Mr Simpanje against asking for indulgence from the committee on misapplication of funds, saying the committee did not deal with ‘indulgences’ but accountability.
United Party for National Development (UPND) Lukulu East MP Batuke Imenda, UPND Mwembeshi MP Austin Milambo and UPND Choma Central MP Cornelius Mweetwa wondered why Government should continue losing funds on insurance premiums over vehicles sold to former Government officials.
MMD Lunte MP Felix Mutati wondered why the ministry was buying luxury vehicles and furniture for ministers and other Government officials at the expense of development.
Earlier, the committee almost sent the Permanent Secretary’s delegation away due to what Mr Mutati described as a “circus of untruths”.
This followed contradictions by some witnesses in their submissions and the written documents supplied to the committee.