Ministry of Health (MoH) officials had a tough time before the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) last week after admitting the ministry’s failure to recover funds owed in imprests to civil servants.
Imprest is an allowance given to civil servants who are on official trips outside their station, normally when they spend a night or more away. The civil servants are required to account for it.
Selebi-Phikwe West legislator and PAC member, Dithapelo Keorapetse said the ministry was failing to recover about 60 percent of the imprest owed by civil servants.
He slammed the Ministry for what he termed “the lack of commitment,” or “complete carelessness” from those responsible for collecting what is due to government.
“The government here is owed almost 60 percent of unretired imprest and nothing seems to be done about the situation. It’s a bit careless for such a big ministry not to take measures in recovering the money,” he said.
Keorapetse said in addition, employees of the ministry owed funds to government over and above unretired imprests. He explained that the ministry had a credit balance that was way too high indicating that the extent to which its employees owed the employer.
“We are also worried about the money owed to employees by the government. The ministry’s credit balance is too high,” he said.The PAC also questioned the ministry for its over expenditure, which resulted in accounting officers dipping into savings and leaving the coffers bare. In her response, Permanent Secretary Shenaaz El-Halabi said she was aware of the ministry’s failure in collecting unretired imprest, but assured PAC that they had recently put measures in place to recover the money. She explained that they had started deducting money from defaulting officers and had also started monitoring the number of trips taken by the officers, especially those who still owe the ministry.
“We are trying by all means to recover the money as we have now put measures in place that we believe at the end will give us the desired results,” he said.
On its over expenditure and exhausted savings, El-Halabi told the PAC that the money originally allocated was inadequate and the ministry had asked for supplementary funding. While awaiting the supplementary budget, the ministry had been forced to tap into its savings, she said. She said the over expenditure in imprest was due to the ministry’s many activities such as the World TB day and other engagements such as malaria that often forced officers to go on long trips and stay there for long.