Auditor-General wields rod on corrupt officials

Auditor-General Mildred Chiri (AG) has given assurances that officials of government institutions and State-owned enterprises (SoEs) indicted of corruption in audit reports would be dealt with in terms of the provisions of the Public Entities Corporate Governance Act passed in May this year.

Since assuming the AG position, Chiri has pointed out glaring weaknesses in Zimbabwe’s public financial management system and exposed rampant plunder of public funds in government, State-owned enterprises, government institutions, parastatals and local government.

But neither Parliament nor government has acted decisively on her reports or its recommendations in the past, raising questions about the willingness of Zimbabwe’s political leadership to uphold and enhance accountability, transparency and good governance.

Chiri told Newsday on the side lines of a media workshop organised by her office, in Harare on Friday that the Public Entities Corporate Governance Act would usher in a new era of accountability in the governance of public institutions and State businesses.

“I think with the enactment of the corporate governance Act, people are going to be held to account for what they would have done,” Chiri said.

“Even so, there are some also who are doing well as ministries. When we report on recommendations, we also include issues that would have been implemented. They are there in our reports. I am sure this Act will go a long way in ensuring that everyone who is not performing is held accountable.”

In the 1980s and early ’90s, parastatals and (SoEs) contributed up to 40% to Gross Domestic Product, but this has since slumped to below 10%.

In terms of the Public Entities Corporate Governance Act, line ministers will be required to observe the principles of transparency with respect to fixing the remuneration of executive board members set out in the Third Schedule.

The Act gives the minister the power to formulate model conditions of service for executive board members of public entities. Line ministers will also be required to follow those model conditions when fixing conditions of service for executive members of boards under their control.

Chiri said the operations of the AG’s office were being undermined by understaffing and brain drain related to poor remuneration.

Her office recently recruited, but only managed to expand its workforce to 354, which was 20 short of the staff compliment required.

“As you know, the wages of central government are a bit low. We have people who are developing professionally and they want to be remunerated appropriately and yet our salaries maybe too low and we end up losing our staff,” Chiri said.

“We recruited about 30 employees at the begging of the year, but we still need more staff to cover our mandate.”

The AG’s office presents its audits to Parliament according to Section 299(1) of the Constitution. The supreme law empowers Parliament to monitor and oversee expenditure by the State and all commissions, institutions and agencies of government at every level, including statutory bodies, government-controlled entities, provincial and metropolitan councils and rural local authorities.

The primary goal of the scrutiny is to ensure that all revenue and expenditure are accounted for, and that any limits and conditions on appropriations have been observed.

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