Audit reports expose parastatal rot

RECENT reports by Auditor-General Mildred Chiri indicate parastatals and government departments — which are a burden to the fiscus — are failing to fulfil their key mandates, compromising service delivery and the nation’s well-being in the process.

Owen Gagare

Topical issues highlighted in the audit include land utilisation and management of estates, management of strategic grain reserves, service delivery by the Central Vehicle Registry (CRV) and management of the basic education assistance module (Beam).

Land utilisation and management is overseen by the Agricultural Rural Development Authority (Arda), while the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) is tasked with maintaining grain reserves. Beam is administered by the department of social welfare.

The audit revealed that GMB and Arda, who have a pivotal role in ensuring Zimbabwe’s food security, were failing dismally.

In GMB’s case, the parastatal is supposed to maintain a strategic grain reserve at a minimum of 500 000 metric tonnes and cash reserves sufficient to import 436 000 metric tonnes. The strategic grain reserve is meant to feed the nation in case of food shortages.

An audit which covered the period April 2009 to March 2012 however indicated that at no time during the period under review did the parastatal manage to keep adequate grain reserves. The situation remains unchanged.

“I observed that GMB was not able to maintain the stipulated strategic grain levels of 500 000 metric tonnes and cash reserves sufficient to import 436 000 metric tonnes at any given time during the period under review,” said Chiri.

“In the grain marketing seasons 2009-2010, 2010-2011 and 2011-2012, the physical stocks fell short of the minimum required by 459 649 (91,93%), 277 831 (55,57%) and 201 386 (40,28%) metric tonnes respectively.”

Chiri also said of the amount received during the three intakes, GMB lost 61 396 metric tonnes which cost about US$18,2 million due to poor storage facilities, poor quality tarpaulins and delays in fumigation.

“My inquiry with the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe revealed that these quantities could have fed 1 534 900 households of six people each for a period of one month,” she said.

Chiri said GMB’s failure to timeously pay farmers for maize delivery was one of the reasons why the parastatal was failing to maintain the strategic grain reserves as some farmers preferred selling to private buyers. She noted that laid down procedures in the management of the grain reserves were not being followed, resulting in weevils wreaking havoc at depots.

Poor hygiene, poor stacked maize, bursting maize bags, shortage of tarpaulins, caking and rotting maize in silos were observed at most depots.

Arda, mandated to ensure food security and assist rural development through managing land on behalf of the state according to the audit report, has failed to fully utilise arable land, monitor contract farming and ensure sound livestock management practices, among other things.

“The authority failed to meet its targeted cropping programme for the three planting seasons 2007/08, 2008/09 and 2009/10 by 53%, 88% and 77% respectively. There was also evidence of failure to fully utilise arable land at Arda estates,” said Chiri.

Apart from its role, Arda is also managing 21 large estates around the country but has been failing to get good yields due to late preparation of land and planting, poor crop management as well as inadequate and obsolete irrigation equipment.

At all Arda estates visited by officials from the Auditor-General’s Office, the authority was not able to irrigate more than 50% of arable land.

In addition, the authority is failing to monitor contract farming while records at all its estates are in a shambles.

Arda, Chiri said, should also have estates specialising in seed production but was not doing so. On Beam, there were delays ranging from seven to 152 days in paying schools Chiri noted. She also observed that there was inadequate monitoring and supervision by the project management unit (PMU), resulting in undeserving children accessing the funds.

The audit also revealed that funds allocated by donors in 2009 and 2010 were not exhausted, prejudicing thousands of vulnerable children.

“The total amount not utilised for the two years amounted to US$2 041 366 … If the unutilised balance of US$435 173 and US$1 606 193 for 2009 and 2010 respectively had been paid to primary schools in rural areas that charge fees of about US$15 per term, 9 670 and 35 693 children respectively would have benefitted,” she said.

“In 2011 and 2012 rejections by banks amounting to US$30 319 and US$40 222 respectively were not re-deposited and the beneficiaries at the schools whose funds were rejected did not benefit from Beam in those years.”

An audit of the Central Vehicle Registry revealed there was a backlog of 52 606 unprocessed driver’s licences as at June 30, 2012. Chiri found that driver’s license disc applicants were spending up to three years without the discs whereas they are supposed to be supplied within a month.

Records at the office were also in a shambles.

“An inspection of the driver’s licence disc master register revealed that the details of the driver’s licence discs produced were not being recorded. The driver’s licence master register which was being used as backup record was last updated in July 2005 …,” she said.
“Failure to keep records may result in individuals circumventing the system to acquire driver’s licence discs without going through the required process.”

She also questioned why CVR advanced US$11,1 million to Air Zimbabwe and US$160 000 to Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe as interest-free loans between February 2011 and January 2012 to meet operational costs of the two entities.

The loan contravened sections two and five of the New Vehicles Security Registration number plate Revolving Fund, which states that funds generated should be used for procurement of raw materials for number plates and meeting other expenses incidental thereto.

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