Africa-Press – Zambia. Under our Constitution, the Secretary to Treasury (ST) and the Minister of Finance are only two offices with power to authorize payments (contracts) on behalf of Zambia. Nothing can ever be paid outside Zambia without their signatures. Even in the contraction of debt or borrowing abroad on behalf of Zambia, it’s only the two signatures that have the authority to. If it’s the Finance Minister, he is actually a one man shareholder for a ‘company’ called Zambia.
All other Ministers don’t have funds commitment or payment authoriation rights. If it’s a deputy Minister then like I was (2011-2016), we were just Kapyopyos (toddlers in the scheme of things). We did not even attend Cabinet meetings where Government decisions are made.
The Ministry of Finance (MOF) clients are Ministries that make funding or payments requests. In FTJ University case, it was the Ministry of Higher Education that was the project owner. MOF technocrats would then have had to tick the following checklist before remitting funds;
1. Does this payment instruction have a Cabinet decision (minutes would be attached to the payment request)? 2. Has the Contract been signed off by the Permanent Secretary ( PS) of Higher Education? 3. Has the Attorney General (AG) and as required by the Constitution approved and signed off the project implementation or payment?
The FOREX payment request would then be tabled in a meeting of MOF PSs ( usually 3 ), the Secretary to Tressury (ST) and the Minister of Finance. If all checks satisfies majority, payment is agreed and processed. This entire process from sponsoring Ministry to Cabinet approval to internal MOF Ministry approval can take atleast 2 months.
In the period leading to and during the payment of the $33M offshore for the FTJ university, the Finance Ministers were Hon Felix Mutati (2016-2018) who then handed over to Hon Margaret Mwanakatwe(2018-2019) about a week before the first tranche of payment was made. Dr Bwalya Ngandu (2019-2021)was the Finance Minister in the period most huge capital projects were frozen.
The ST and Attorney General (AG) in the period 2016 to 2021 were Fred Yamba and Likando Kalaluka respectively while Mr Mukuli Chikuba was (and still is) at MOF as the Permanent Secretary (PS).
Meantime MOF has no SWIFT computers as it is not a Bank. It’s the Bank of Zambia (BOZ) that would have to send that payment outside Zambia to China, Europe or USA based receiving bank account.
The BOZ also has internal control measures same as for commercial banks. Before funds can be sent out on behalf of their client MOF and Zambia, BOZ big wigs would need to append their signatures. Typically these would be director of Banking, deputy Governor operations and the Governor. During the $33M payment periods the Governor was (and current) Dr Denny Kalyalya and the current deputy Governor Dr Francis Chipimo was one of the directors.
From the project sponsoring Ministry of Higher Education, to Cabinet office (State House), MOF and BOZ, records or paper trail are kept so as for internal and external Auditors to come and validate.
In short, this wahala about the FTJ university can easily be traced with actual signatures of authorisation made at any one of those institutions mentioned above. Money paid by Government abroad can never be hidden or unexplained as paper and electronic records or trail remain intact for atleast 10 years both within and outside Zambia where that transaction touched.
The people who signed or authorized payments vouchers are known as indicated above and should care to tell the public what convinced them to put their pen to paper for the funds transfer. From debates I have read on the payment thus far, my prayer is that the money was sent to the Exim Bank of China because then funds are still held up in some escrow account awaiting counter party funding from the Zambian Government.
If funds were sent to the contractor directly, then there may be reason to worry. The contractor needs to be located via the Chinese embassy so they explain where funds are or what it was spent on.
I and like every Zambian wants to know the truth around this transaction. Reconciliation and Accountability of public funds in the past, today and tomorrow is part and parcel of good governance wanted by all of us Zambians. Together We Can