Hold govt officials to account: Veritas


LEGAL think-tank, Veritas says the government should start enforcing the Public Finance Management Act in order to rein in financial misconduct.

Veritas was responding to reports that a significant amount of US$92 billion allocated to the Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare ministry in 2021 was not utilised.

The ministry handles funding crucial for interventions in a series of critical areas of the economy, including the poor.

With high levels of poverty in the country, where over half of the country’s citizens have perennially been facing food shortages, questions have been asked why over US$7 billion could sit in the ministry without being utilised.

The legal think-tank said there should be checks and balances to make sure such mistakes were not repeated in the future.

“Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare ministry is responsible for managing and disbursing billions of dollars — its allocation in the budget for 2023 will be $91,6 billion,” Veritas said.

“This is a heavy responsibility because millions of people in the poorest and most vulnerable sections of our society depend for their survival on government funding and assistance disbursed by the ministry,” Veritas said.

“Those people are the ones who suffer most if the ministry wastes, misappropriates or fails to disburse its funds. Under the Public Finance Management Act a ministry’s accounting officer — usually the permanent secretary — is responsible for controlling the expending of money allocated to the ministry by Parliament.  Accounting officers who fail in their duties are guilty of financial misconduct under section 85 of the Act and must be disciplined under section 87.”

“Perhaps it is time government accounting officers were reminded of these provisions.”

According to Veritas, the mission of the Public Service ministry is to promote economic and social development through the provision of high-quality public services, effective labour administration, and long-term social security programmes.

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