The Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has recommended the arrest of Chief Forestry Officer Alick Mitawa and Senior Accounts Assistant Tarrif Movete for the Ministry of Forestry and Natural Resources who are being suspected of stealing money realised from sale of pine trees around Lunyangwa Dam, located next to Tondu River in Mzimba District.
PAC’s recommendation follows findings of a 2019-2020 audit report which exposed that funds amounting to K36.7 million were not accounted for at the Ministry.
The Committee’s Chairperson Shadric Namalomba said it is both surprising and worrying to note that the matter was never reported to police despite apparent evidence that funds were abused by the said public officers.
Wondered Namalomba: “We have very few words to describe them, very pathetic development because here are two individuals in public office.
What we would have expected that immediately when this happened, there individuals could have been reported to fiscal police so that police pick up investigations.”
Namalomba has since directed Parliament Secretariat to write Police to arrest the suspects including giving the Ministry a two-week ultimatum to hold the officers accountable.
“And then arrest them and take them to court but when we queried them they said they could not take this matter to court because previously they have been losing similar cases,” he said.
On her part, the Ministry’s Principal Secretary Yanira Ntupanyama said the Ministry reported the matter to Civil Service Commission to conduct its investigations after noting the abuse and that the officers are currently on interdiction till the Commission winds up the inquiry.
“I understand that money was never remitted to the Ministry, and in findings we found that the money the money was misused.
“Later on we found that the money was actually misappropriated and the issue was referred to the Auditor General and also to the Civil Service Commission because these were civil servants that committed the offense,” Ntupanyama said.
In the past, Northern Region Water Board (NRWB) planted trees around Lunyangwa Dam and the Board advertised for the sell of the trees which saw Forestry Department taking a 60 percent stake because the trees were planted on their land and the remaining 40 percent was given to NRWB.