The Auditor General’s report on the audited accounts of the Francistown City Council for the 2003/2003 financial year has unveiled a sad state of affairs in which accounting procedures were continuously flouted and officials repeatedly failing to account for council finances.
The report also revealed that, on top of the rampant financial mismanagement, there is a serious backlog in the FCC accounts, a fact which council officials have repeatedly denied.
Contrary to his previous insistence that their books were in order, Deputy City Clerk, Adam Chiliwa, last week confirmed that indeed the city council was facing a serious backlog in their accounts, citing that as the reason why they were presently discussing audited accounts for the year ended March 31, 2003.
In the report, the Auditor General made a number of recommendations one of which was that the city council should engage debt collectors to augment their efforts of collecting owed rates and service levy from the public.
It emerged from the report that at the time the city council was owed close to P17 million in rates and service levy arrears.
Presenting the report to the full council meeting, FCC Treasurer, Lillian Mwampoli, said, instead of engaging debt collectors, the council had opted for house to house campaigns to sensitize the public about the importance of paying their rates; an option which many feel was a political maneuver by the BDP dominated FCC.
Former Mayor and now Monarch South Councilor, Ignatius Moswaane, would later shoot down this option saying that it was costly since it involved paying overtime to council employees.
He also said that unlike debt collectors, the house-to-house campaigns were not legally binding and would therefore not scare people into paying.
“The council has failed to collect rates in the past; what makes them think they will succeed now?” he asked.
The auditor general also urged the city council to keep in touch with the police on the progress of cases involving former council employees who are facing charges of fraud.
The report revealed that no recoveries have been made of the more that P 140 000 that was misappropriated from council coffers, while some of the implicated officers are still employed by the city council.
Chiliwa confirmed to Sunday Standard that indeed they had numerous cases pending before the courts. He added that some of the accused officers had been acquitted at a cost to the city council and they were yet to be reinstated and reimbursed.
According to the audit report, the FCC does not adhere to set accounting standards in the preparation and distribution of recurrent revenue and expenditure and capital statements.
It also emerged from the report that accounting personnel in the FCC continuously flout accounting procedures as they fail to submit monthly and quarterly statements of revenue expenditure to the Ministry of Local Government, the Auditor General and the Government statistician.
By the time the 2002/2003 audited reports were finalized, the FCC had not yet submitted financial statements for the year ended March 31, 2004, one year and seven months after the deadline.
Financial laxity and mismanagement of funds is so rampant that, contrary to financial regulations, some officers were granted new imprests while they owed the council thousands of pulas in outstanding imprests which they had not yet retired.
Government accounting procedures stipulate that officers who had been granted imprests when going on trips should retire those imprests two weeks after they return to their duty stations.
But that is not the practice at the FCC as some officers had imprests that have been outstanding for more that two years, yet they enjoy additional ones from the city council.
The report gave an example of a former FCC treasurer who had an outstanding imprest of more that P 20 000 which he had been owing the council for more than a year.
The auditor general questioned how a treasurer, whose responsibility was to ensure that accounting procedures were adhered to, could effectively carry out his mandate if he flouted the very rules that he was supposed to uphold and enforce.
By March 2003, over P 70 000 worth of outstanding imprests had not been collected from owing officers, some of whom had either went on transfer or changed jobs.