By NATION REPORTER
ONLY the Auditor General with express written consent from the President has the authority to contract external or private auditing firms to conduct audits for Zambia’s defence and security wings, the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) has said.
Lungisani Zulu, the LAZ president has said the provisions of section 24(3) of the Public Audit Act No.29 of 2016 expressly restricts the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) not to permit any authorised person, agent or specialist consultant to have access to any book, record, returns report or other document, or to enter the premises of any component of the defence force and the national security service or law enforcement agency.
The Ministry of Finance and National Planning has hired Grant Thornton and Price Water House and Coopers (PWC) to audit the books of accounts for the country’s defence and security units against the professional advice of the Office of the Auditor General.
Vice-President Mutale Nalumango, the Minister of Finance Dr Situmbeko Musokotwane, Ambrose Lufuma, the Defence Minister and Cushi Kasanda, the Information and Media Minister have all given different statements over the scandal.
However, sources have maintained that while the Office of the Auditor General had been consulted, it had advised Government against the hiring of the two private firms hence the decision by the Ministry of Finance to sign a contract with the two companies.
But Mr Zulu said the Auditor General could only appoint external auditors to audit the defence forces where circumstances of an audit justify such subcontracting with prior written consent of the President, authorising access by external auditors was obtained.
He said in a statement yesterday that it was LAZ’s considered position that subcontracting of the external auditors to audit the defence forces was legal only if it was done by the Auditor General following the President’s prior written consent.
He explained that the Auditor General was required to satisfy that national security would not be compromised by the access before the President could grant such written consent.
“From the onset, it is the Law Association of Zambia’s position that the Auditor General has general powers to appoint external auditors under section 10 of the Public Audit Act, No. 29 of 2016 to audit any state organs and state bodies.”
He said the external auditors could only have access to defense forces financial book with the prior written consent of the President as provided for under section 73(3) of the Public Finance Management Act, No. 1 of 2018 and that the preconditions were meant to safeguard national security.
Mr Zulu said only the Auditor General had general power to appoint external auditors under section 10 of the Public Audit Act, No. 29 of 2016 to audit any state organs and state bodies.