BY VENERANDA LANGA
THE Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday directed Clerk of Parliament, Kennedy Chokuda to summon Finance ministry secretary George Guvamatanga on a warrant of arrest to appear before Parliament for grilling after playing truancy since March this year.
PAC chairperson Tendai Biti told journalists that Guvamatanga would be summoned through a warrant of arrest in order to give oral evidence on the Financial Adjustments Bill, where government overspent by US$10,6 billion.
The Financial Adjustments Bill is sponsored by the Finance ministry and is meant to seek condonation (forgiveness) for the government over-expenditure which happened between 2015 and 2018.
The warrant of arrest will be issued for Guvamatanga and his ministry officials Kunaka Pfungwa, who is the principal director and Edwin Zvandasara, who is the acting accountant-general.
“After we had challenges in securing his (Guvamatanga’s) attendance, the PAC made a unanimous decision that we should direct the Clerk of Parliament, Kennedy Chokuda to issue a warrant of arrest summoning Guvamatanga to appear before the committee on October 5,” Biti said.
“If he fails, the law will take its course as prescribed by the Parliament Privileges and Immunity Act and he will be charged with contempt of Parliament,” he added.
Biti said this was not the first time that Guvamatanga had snubbed the committee.
“This is not the first time we received such contempt from Guvamatanga. In our first report presented before Parliament on the omissions of the Ministry of Finance, we actually censured the same Guvamatanga and the late former accountant-general Daniel Muchemwa after we had challenges in securing their attendance to give oral evidence before the committee,” Biti said.
He said Guvamatanga kept giving flimsy excuses to avoid grilling over how government overspent by US$10,6 billion and to disaggregate the expenditure ministry by ministry, and yearly from 2015 to 2018.
“The US$10,6 billion was spent without parliamentary approval and without a budget to back the expenditure over a period of years from 2015 to 2018. We were also shocked to learn from Zvandasara that the US$10,6 billion was already over-expenditure on budget deficits for 2015 to 2018. It means that in 2017, the government overspent by US$2,7 billion and in 2018, it was US$3,5 billion.
“We asked the ministry officials to disaggregate the process and forward books of accounts to the AG [Auditor-General] for auditing. We also asked them to seek an opinion from the Attorney-General Prince Machaya on the meaning of section 307 of the Constitution, which talks of what government must do if it overspends because it gives a timeline that within 60 days of over-expenditure, they must bring a Condonation Bill before Parliament. But that did not happen for several years after the over-expenditure,” Biti said.
After he was invited to give oral evidence before PAC yesterday, Guvamatanga wrote to Parliament saying he was busy preparing the 2021 national budget and the national development strategy, an excuse which angered MPs.
“We find the attitude of Guvamatanga very disrespectful and very contemptuous of this committee,” Biti said.
Do you have a coronavirus story? You can email us on: firstname.lastname@example.org