BY NATION REPORTER
The contract awarded to Grant Thornton and PriceWaters and Coppers, the private firms hired to audit Zambia’s Defence and Security Wings was not signed by the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) but by the Ministry of Finance, Sectary to the Treasury Felix Nkulukusa has confirmed.
This is contrary to the law.
Mr Nkulukusa has admitted that the hiring of Grant Thornton and Price Waters and Coopers to audit the books of the Zambia Army, Zambia Air Force (ZAF) and Zambia National Service (ZNS) was done through selective bidding and not through an open tender.
But sources say the Office of the Auditor General had advised against contracting private firms to audit the country’s Defence Forces Units and that the awarding of the contract to Grant Thornton was against professional advice.
The sources reveal that when discussions started about contracting Grant Thornton to conduct audit on Zambia’s Defence Units, the Office of the Auditor General had guided according to the provisions of the Constitution but the advice was largely ignored because of the vested interests by the politically exposed individuals.
Francis Mbewe, the Deputy Auditor General when contacted over the contract said the Office of the Auditor General was unable to make a comment and referred all queries to the Ministry of Finance.
Mr Nkulukusa however stated that the hiring of the two foreign firms to audit the Zambia Army, ZAF and the ZNS respectively was with advice from the Office of the Auditor General.
He said in an interview that when the discussions commenced to engage foreign forensic auditing firms to audit the books of Zambia’s Defence Force Units, the Office of the Auditor General was involved through consultations.
Mr Nkulukusa said the Ministry of Finance sought advice from the Office of the Auditor General and that the office had in return asked the Ministry to go ahead after it had recommended which firms should have been hired.
“The contract that has been awarded to Grant Thornton and PriceWaters and Coopers was not signed by the Office of the Auditor General. It was signed between the Ministry of Finance and the firms so contracted. But this was after we sought advice from the Office of the Auditor General. After recommendations from the Auditor General, we did selective biding, which is an internal process. This was after we wrote to the Auditor General,” Mr Nkulukusa said.
Mr Nkulukusa also confirmed that the Office of the Auditor General was the only institution that hosted the statutory mandate and functions to subcontract foreign firms to audit selected government institutions.
There has an uproar from a cross sections of society over government’s decision to hire foreign firms to intrude into the books of the country’s Defence and Security Wings.
On Friday last week, during the Vice-President Question and answer session in Parliament, Vice-President Mutale Nalumango failed to answer questions on whether the Office of the Auditor General was consulted in the process of awarding the tender to Grant Thornton and Price Waters and Coppers to audit the Defence Forces Units.
Instead Ms Nalumango told Parliament that she did not know how the contract was award but that after completing the audits, the two private firms would then deliver the audit report to the Office of the Auditor General.
Government is also claiming it is unaware that Grant Thornton and Price Waters and Coopers have been contracted to audit the Zambia Army, ZAZ ZNS).
Chushi Kasanda, the Chief Government Spokesperson when asked about the private firms intruding into the books of the Defence and Security Units said what Vice-President Mutale Nalumango told Parliament on Friday was the correct position of government.
When reminded that Mrs Nalumango told Parliament that she did not know how the contract was awarded, Ms Kasanda, who is the Minister of Information and Media in her response said that the Vice-President’s answer in Parliament was the correct position.
Ms Kasanda said thus: “Is it not what the Vice-President answered in Parliament? I think the Vice-President stated and she answered adequately. That is my comment. Otherwise you should get in touch with relevant Ministries…it would not hurt.”
Meanwhile, Brain Mundubile, the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament has directly accused President Hakainde Hichilema of corruption by alleging that the Head of State was awarding contracts to his friends.
“By the mere fact the Auditor General did not sign those contracts means this is corruption. The President while in opposition campaigned vigorously that former President Lungu was giving contracts to his friends. President Hichilema called it corruption then, he must call it corruption now,” Mr Mundubile said.