The parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC), yesterday met officials from the Ministry of Education to get explanations on irregularities in the management of finances as reflected in the 2009/2010 Auditor General’s Report.
This was part of the ongoing marathon sessions where PAC members are questioning officials from various public institutions about the loss of public funds.
The most glaring irregularities discovered in the ministry and its affiliated institutions stemmed from poor accounting methods.
The Permanent Secretary in MINEDUC, Sharon Haba, explained that most of the errors were committed at a time when the ministry had no accountant.
“We had no accountant for a long time and after we recruited one, she had to be trained because she had no experience, hence the errors that prevailed,” Haba said.
The committee members wondered why the Ministry had to hire an inexperienced and incompetent accountant.
“What are your recruitment criteria?” asked Juvenal Nkusi, the chairperson of the committee.
Haba explained that the problem stems from a general shortage of highly qualified accountants that the country faces.
“That is why while recruiting, we look for candidates who have some accounting background and train with the help of a programme in the Ministry of Finance.”
Among other prominent financial irregularities in the ministry was the payment processes and record keeping of procured materials for the construction of Nine-Year Basic Education (9-YBE) Programme.
MINEDUC officials acknowledged that there were weaknesses that led to irregularities in the management of finances, but said that most of those inefficiencies have since been ironed out.
The PAC committee advised them to be cautious while handling public finances to avoid similar occurrences in future.