The Ministry of Finance has been caught offside after failing to submit accounts to a parliamentary portfolio committee for scrutiny, it emerged yesterday.
BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA
The revelations came after the ministry appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Accounts (PAC) for the review of the 2014 audit on public finances.
The ministry’s delegation, led by permanent secretary, Willard Manungo was grilled by legislator Eddie Cross on why it had failed to provide accounts to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Finance and Economic Development.
“I sit on the Parliament Finance Committee and during that time I have not seen any piece of accounts provided from the ministry of Finance,” Cross said.
In response, accountant-general in the ministry, Daniel Muchemwa said they were “aware of the deadlines and some of our failures, but it is definitely part of our programme to be compliant”.
Manungo said “we will do a follow-up and see where we are not being compliant, in order to become more compliant”.
Muchemwa said they were experiencing challenges with the main accounting system, SAP, and this had hampered the ministry in collecting data on public funds.
Some of the areas of contention included lack of efficiency of the SAP system, which has been experiencing problems in its security, ability to store more data, and the source of power it uses.
Other areas included the cut off time for the Finance ministry at the close of a financial year, usually done 31 days after the last day of a year, referred to as the 13th period, which members of PAC thought was too long.
The PAC also spoke about the failure to keep records on assets purchased prior to dollarisation, in order to prepare proper budgets to purchase government equipment.
The SAP system is supposed to have an audit trial software programme, which allows it to easily track money spent by the government. However, the current software is failing to synchronise with this software leading the failure of the SAP system to run at full capacity.
Last year, the misuse of $729 000 in public funds led the Finance ministry to sack nine employees, who included both senior staff and those who did not follow proper checks and balances.
“We do not have the capacity and have ordered two super servers from the African Development Bank, which we expect will be delivered before the first half of the year for the SAP system,” Muchemwa said.
“When they come we will use the latest audit technology. We cannot ignite the audit log within or current system due to the space of the current existing hardware.”
The PAC ordered the ministry to stick to its obligations in order to provide better accountability over public funds.
Muchemwa singled out the ministries of Defence and Foreign Affairs in failing to provide accounts during the 13th period.
“Just opening the 13th period we ended up with trial balances that were difficult to reconcile and follow. We have noted that Foreign Affairs has a peculiar problem. I think I will also add that the Defence [ministry] also has a peculiar problem. So I expect those to come almost in the 14th period to come next year,” he said.