By BENNIE MUNDANDO
SENSITIVE and vital financial information has been lost at the Ministry of Finance following the collapse of its central computing system that manages and processes all Government payments.
It is now feared that the system may have been sabotaged by individuals who are trying to conceal information implicating those who had been cited in the Auditor General’s report as having misappropriated or misapplied Government resources.
The system, known as the Integrated Financial Management Information system (IFMIS), was implemented by Government and facilitated by Smart Zambia in 2015.
It was integrated to the Treasury Single Accounting (TSA) which was conducted through a financial accounting and reporting software that records transactions, reports operating data at the end of every month or quarter, and analyses financial data.
With this system in place, the Ministry of Finance was working like a bank where a treasury department was put in place and this enabled the ministry to process and pay salaries for civil servants within a day.
However, the IFMIS servers were on January 29, 2018 hacked and the system crashed, plunging the ministry into an operational challenge as it was forced to revert to processing transactions manually, a development which has taken a toll on efficiency, transparency, and accountability as it has created room for alteration of records.
Speaking to the Daily Nation yesterday, an impeccable inside source said this could have been an act of sabotage, purposefully aimed at losing vital information to shield certain individuals who were facing audit queries as the system had never been updated in the past two years and did not have any backup.
“This system was created for Government for the purpose of accountability, transparency, and efficiency. With IFMIS in place, you cannot process anything out of the budget because the system has an imbedded budget sealing. This is why you are seeing a lot of cases of misapplication of funds in the AG’s report because the system was refusing to pay certain things when the budget was exhausted.
“Since the IFMIS crashed the ministry is now processing payments manually and so, there is suspicion that some people must have just sabotaged the system because of the audit queries. Without records, auditors can’t even audit the 2017 transactions because there is nothing. Even if the system is to be brought back, the ministry will have to start afresh imputing all the data which may also be manipulated at that stage,” the source said.
The source further said the Ministry of Finance was now taking more time to process payments because everything has to be done manually.
“With this system in place, the Ministry of Finance was operating like a bank through its treasury department where it could start the process of payments in the morning and by 12:00 people will start getting salaries in their accounts.
“Right now, transactions that were taking about two days are now taking up to two weeks. As a matter of fact, there are no more emergencies. If you lose any document at the Ministry of Finance or Bank of Zambia, that trail is lost and you have to start afresh. It is now difficult to even make a quarterly or progress report even at national level. Accountability is completely lost,” the source said.
It is believed that companies from either German or South African are the ones which sold the program software to Government. Currently, the ministry is only attending to ministers’ payments while others have to wait for approval and processes at the ministry.