Accountants, administrators connived with Zanaco officials to siphon K3.5million
The Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee on Tuesday grilled chief accountants who served in the Ministry of General Education during the time when a cartel involving that ministry, the Ministry of Finance and ZANACO officials were siphoning money.
After General Education Permanent Secretary Henry Tukombe narrated what he knew about the fraud in which K3,488,327 involving 12 transactions were paid to three officers, PAC summoned the chief accountants who had been transferred; one to the Ministry of Finance whilst the other was with the Office of the Auditor General.
One of them narrated how difficult it had been to pin point the suspects due to ZANACO’s uncooperative stance on the matter.
The former chief accountant also told PAC that Lawrence Phiri, the man at the centre of the fraud, had been cashing Ministry of General Education cheques even after being transferred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and could not give reasonable explanations when he was summoned.
Below is part of the verbatim of the session:
Chavuma UPND member of parliament Victor Lumayi:
Mr Mwanza (former chief accountant), there is an issue here, questionable payment. During the period under review, there were 12 transactions involving K3,488,327 which were issued to one Lawrence Bwalya Phiri and the same individual got all these payments, K290,000 one day, K320,000 second day, K289,500 third day, it went up to 15th September, 2016.
However, this same person, his names were changing continuously. L Bwalya P, L B Phiri, Bwalya Phiri, B Phiri, Lawrence Phiri and at that time, you were the person in charge of handling the national resources at the Ministry of Education.
“The question is, how did you continuously issue the cheques to the said Bwalya Phiri involving these amounts continuously? Secondly, who signed the cheques that were cashed without the ministry’s authority and knowledge?”
“And were these authorized cheque signatories? Then the third one, how did the payments go through the bank without a backing sheet and what actions did you take as an accountant at that time because you were the man in charge of the cheque book authorising all the payments on behalf of the people of Zambia?”
Levy Mwanza (former chief accountant at the Ministry of Education now chief accountant at the Ministry of Finance):
“I was at the Ministry of Education until up to the first quarter of 2016. I then moved to the Ministry of Finance and handed over to my colleague. The time I was leaving, these payments which have been queried here did not come to my attention.”
“They did not pass through my office to authorize them and I have no knowledge concerning these payments.”
PAC Chairperson Howard Kunda:
Who was responsible at that time during the time that is being queried?
“Chair, as you may note, the dates which are here, the dates are partly towards the first quarter and continues up to the end of the year and partly I was there. So for those…”