KARA Counselling and Training Trust, a non-governmental organisation that provides free HIV/AIDS services, is threatened with closure because some of its major donors have withdrawn support after an internal audit revealed glaring misappropriation of funds amounting to over K9 billion.
Kara Counselling and Training Trust board chairperson Lumba Kalumba said in an interview on Thursday that an internal audit conducted for 2011 has revealed glaring irregularities which have led to the closure of its operations in Choma, Kabwe and Mansa.
She said Kara Counselling and Training Trust main donor for its Kabwe programme Stephen Lewis Foundation and another donor, Tools of Self Reliance of the United Kingdom, for the same project have withdrawn their financial support.
Mrs Kalumba said Liechtenstein Development Service (LED), another donor which supported Kara Counselling and Training Trust Choma programme, is winding up because it is disappointed with the manner the NGO managed financial resources.
“We have discovered that we owe the National Pensions Scheme Authority (NAPSA) and Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) a lot of money coming to about K3 billion.
“Over the years, they have not been submitting NAPSA returns and ZRA Pay As You Earn (PAYE). We have also been asked by the Zambia National Aids Network (ZNAN), who made a claim of K5.7 billion which was given to us between 2004 and 2007,” Mrs Kalumba said.
She said the Kara Counselling and Training Trust board of directors has also discovered that its head office, which houses the executive director and about 15 members of staff, has completely run out of resources and cannot afford to pay salaries.
“We carried out some audit and found out that some funds for head office estimated at US$80,000 had been misappropriated. We decided to carry out audits for our other programmes outside Lusaka in Choma and Kabwe.
“In Kabwe, we found that money amounting to about K100 million has not been managed properly and we had to close down the programme,” she said.
Mrs Kalumba added: “In Choma again we found that money was misappropriated and funds ran out before the time they were supposed to, so we also had to close down operations. The hospice was closed in August last year while the day care centre was closed in December.”
She said there are about five hospices in Zambia and that Kara Counselling and Training Trust runs three of them. Mrs Kalumba said the organisation has closed down two of its hospices and has only remained with the one in Kamwala.
“We have found the misappropriation and misapplication of funds by the former director of finance to be so much that we have asked the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) to assist us to investigate this further,” Mrs Kalumba said. DEC acting public relations officer Samuel Silomba confirmed that DEC has instituted investigations at Kara Counselling and Training Trust but will give details at an appropriate time.
And Mrs Kalumba has advised boards of directors in other NGOs to be actively involved in how funds are spent. “Our management team had too much leeway to the extent that it became careless and started misappropriating funds because they knew that the board was not involved in a detailed manner,” Mrs Kalumba said.
She is also concerned that CIDERS, its major funder for the Lusaka-based anti-retroviral therapy clinic located near Kulima tower bus station, is pulling out within the next six months.
“This is the only programme within the organisation which has not fallen prey to financial mismanagement because it was not under the control of the financial director.
“This clinic is catering for 4,500 patients. We provide free services though there is a small user-fee of K50, 000 which was introduced late last year when we knew that donor funds would be removed,” Mrs Kalumba said.
She said her organisaion is trying to work with the private sector to save the ART clinic from collapse because it is the best facility in the sub-Saharan region that works alongside Government’s free ART.
“We will be distraught if in six months we have to close down because we don’t have partners. We have trained nurses and clinical officers in ART and they are working in various health institutions around the country,” Mrs Kalumba said.
She said she looks forward to DEC arresting some individuals who brought Kara Counselling and Training Trust to this situation. Ms Kalumba also said Grant Thornton is currently carrying out an overall audit at Kara Counselling and Training Trust.
The organisation was formed in 1989 after late Winstone Zulu went public to declare his HIV positive status. Among the pioneers of Kara Counselling and Training Trust are Father Kelly, Dr Katele Kalumba, Dr Mabuba Banda and Mr Kopeka Phiri.
[Zambia Daily Mail]