Accounts Committee sends away PS Howard Sikwela for giving unsatisfactory answers

LIVINGSTONE Member of Parliament (MP) Howard Sikwela has resigned from the United Party for National Development (UPND). Reverend Sikwela has cited hostility in the UPND as the major reason for his resignation. He said at a media briefing in Livingstone yesterday that he had been receiving threats from UPND members since he declared that he wanted to work with the Government of the day to promote development in his constituency. Rev Sikwela, who is a former principal at David Livingstone College of Education, becomes the first UPND MP to resign. He was elected as Livingstone MP on July 5, last year in a by-election which arose after MMD’s Lukulo Katombora’s election results were nullified in the High Court. When asked if he would join the ruling Patriotic Front (PF), Rev Sikwela said he would remain an ‘open cheque’. Other MPs who have resigned recently are Steven Masumba and Gabriel Namulambe, who were MMD parliamentarians in Mufumbwe and Mpongwe constituencies, respectively. Mr Masumba stood in the same constituency under the PF ticket and retained the seat. He has since been appointed North-Western Province Minister. After Rev Sikwela emerged winner in the Livingstone parliamentary by-election last year, the PF challenged the election results in court and the case is coming up next week. “One asks a question, where would an MP get resources to develop his constituency? Of course it is from the Government of the day. An MP must think development, talk development and dream development. “It is with a heavy heart that today I have to announce my resignation as area MP and as a member of UPND,” Rev Sikwela said. He said he had already written to the Speaker of the National Assembly over his resignation. He accused UPND members of preparing for victory celebrations in Livingstone as they expected that he would lose his seat after a court ruling expected next week. “What is the logic of these celebrations when the results are still being challenged in the courts of law?” he asked. Rev Sikwela said UPND required rebranding in order for the opposition party to have a national character. PF Livingstone district chairperson Fred Chibuye said Rev Sikwela’s resignation had come as good news to the ruling party and the people of Livingstone. When contacted for a comment, UPND spokesperson Charles Kakoma described Rev Sikwela as a disappointment to Zambians and the people of Livingstone who elected him after a by-election. Mr Kakoma said UPND would work hard to recapture the Livingstone seat.

THE Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday sent away Local Government and Housing Permanent Secretary Howard Sikwela for failing to give concrete answers on why some officers were paid K510,000 as meal allowance for stock take that was not conducted.

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This is the second time the PAC sent Reverend Sikwela away for giving unsatisfactory answers.
According to the 2012 Auditor General’s report, the ministry paid K510,150 to 41 officers as allowances for conducting the monthly stock take from January to November.
The report revealed that the officers were getting allowances on a daily basis from the first day of the month to the last day, including weekends.

The allowances in November erroneously increased from K50 to K250 and resulted in the officers being paid for more than days in a calendar month such as 35 to 40 days.

MMD Mafinga Member of Parliament (MP) Catherine Namugala questioned why the ministry was doubling the number of days to increase the allowances due to them.

Rev Sikwela admitted that there were anomalies in the payments of allowances but maintained that the stock take verifications were conducted.
He named the coordinator of the exercise as Bernard Namachila, the former permanent secretary who had been cited for having been paid K36,650 from January to November 2012 in meal allowances.
Other who were cited include the accountant Hellen Tembo, who was paid K29,400 for 528 days during the same period, and an officer a Mr Zulu, who was paid K23,000 for 408 days.
Lunte MMD MP Felix Mutati questioned why the ministry had still not availed the report for the stock verification.

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Rev Sikwela failed to give a concrete answer, and also admitted that the matter was a serious issue of theft.

He said the ministry had proceeded to make deductions from the officers involved.
But Patriotic Front (PF) Chama North MP January Zimba questioned how the ministry would effect the deductions since some officers had retired while others had left the ministry.
At some point, the committee invited some of the officers mentioned in the report to respond to the queries.

They included the director of decentralisation, Alfred Sakwiya, who was among the officers paid K9,750 for 195 days from January to November.
Mr Sakwiya said he did not remember signing for the money which was generated in his name.
But after further scrutiny, he said someone could have been paid the money as the exercise was covered beyond his jurisdiction.
This forced the committee to ask the permanent secretary and his team to summon some of the officers cited in the report and report back at 14:30 hours.

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