HARARE – Government claims it has started a process to take action over damning expose’s of blatant theft of millions by ministers and other government bureaucrats made in comptroller and auditor-general Mildred Chiri’s reports.
This comes as Chiri has routinely issued adverse reports on abuse of public funds, but they have gone largely ignored with no discernible action taken against culprits.
Last year, the auditor-general’s report on Appropriation Accounts, State Enterprises and Parastatals found 22 ministries out of a total 26 to have abused funds as well as having flouted procurement procedures and governance rules.
Finance minister, Patrick Chinamasa, said his handicap was that he did not have the staff to comb through the voluminous auditor’s reports.
This was after Norton independent legislator Temba Mliswa called on Parliament to bring the executive to order for grand scale theft of public money which has deprived some of Zimbabwe’s poorest citizens of better access to fundamental services such as health and education.
“If the auditor-general is clear in indicating that there is financial indiscipline in the executive, why do we keep giving money to the very same institutions which have been exposed by the auditor-general?” Mliswa asked rhetorically.
Years of evidence indicate that Zimbabwe’s current political system is built on patronage and that ultimately high-level corruption is rewarded rather than punished.
“Are we not undermining the office of the auditor-general?” Mliswa asked.
Mliswa called for legislative reforms to bolster anti-corruption efforts.
Chinamasa said he had to negotiate with the Civil Service Commission so that government creates an establishment solely dedicated to reading the government auditor’s reports and responding to them.
“I believe we are almost getting there,” he said.
“You cannot respond to all those auditor’s reports unless there is some team dedicated to ploughing through all those reports and disseminating or rather discriminating what may not be quite true and what is true and correcting the mistakes which are pointed out in those reports.”
The AG fulfils its mandate by conducting a variety of audits, such as regularity audits — both financial and compliance — performance audits, the audit of reporting against predetermined objectives, and investigations. The AG’s reports are public documents.
Despite the AG’s myriad damning corruption reports, the State has failed to hold the highest members of government accountable for theft of public funds, despite its stated commitment to eradicating corruption and much good work from investigators and prosecutors at the technical level.
Earlier in March last year, the African Development Bank (AfDB) extended a $3 million grant to strengthen Parliament’s watchdog role and help it make the executive and other institutions dealing with public funds, more transparent and accountable.
The fate of the funds remains unknown.