10 000 Youths Illegally Hired

A SPECIAL audit report on ministerial accounts has exposed corruption through gross abuse of state resources by top government officials and unlawful recruitment of over 10 000 youths during the countdown to last year’s violent presidential election run-off.

In a damning report by the Comptroller and Auditor-General, Mildred Chiri, for the first quarter of 2009 financial year, several ministers and their deputies and permanent secretaries took away vehicles, some as many as four, from ministries where they had been working before the formation of the inclusive government.

 

The audit also revealed irregularities and inadequacies in the payroll administration in several ministries.

The Ministry of Youth Development was singled out as the worst case of abusing government recruitment procedures when it employed 10 277 youths between May and June 2008 without the existence of posts on the ministry’s establishment.

The youths were deployed throughout the country as ward officers in what Chiri said was a violation of a treasury instruction that stated “no officer shall be appointed unless an appropriate vacancy exists on the authorised establishment and no unestablished officer shall be appointed for specific work unless adequate provision has been made for the purpose”.

“In terms of the authorised establishment supporting the 2008 Budget estimates, the ministry had an establishment of 144 youth officers,” reads the report. “This was based on the criteria that there would be two youth officers in each of the country’s 72 districts.

In a clear violation of Treasury Instruction 1101, in May and June 2008 a further 10 277 names were added to the ministry’s payroll. Although no provision had been made in the estimates, a decision had been taken to the effect that the additional appointees would be deployed up to ward level throughout the country and designated as ward youth officers.”

Between May and June 27 — the day of the presidential run-off — there was widespread political violence in the country. The Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC alleged that close to 200 of its supporters were killed and thousands tortured and injured by Zanu PF youths, war veterans and state security agents.

The audit said public service appointment procedures were flouted as there were no public advertisements for vacant posts, no offers of appointment and no letters of engagement issued.

“The appointees were not subjected to a medical examination as required by the public service regulations quoted above. Declarations of official secrets were not completed and there was no staff files opened at either the ministry headquarters or the provincial and/or district offices in all the provinces and districts covered by audit.”

The audit report reveals that there was duplication of 458 names on the payroll.

During the audit there was the absence of personal details of the employees and the very “likelihood of some of these or the majority thereof being ghost employees”.

“The appointment process was unprocedural as evidenced by the following irregularities: duplicated names and surnames with the same ID, individuals appearing in two ministries, no appointment documents, same date of birth for most employees and same bank account used for paying employees-imprests accounts,” reads the report.

The Auditor-General said though salary cessation was effected in March using IDs as the controlling key to identify duplicates after the revelation of ghost employees by the print media, there was no evidence that disallowances were raised to recover salaries from non bona fide employees.

The auditor raised concern that there was no evidence of the fraud having been refereed to the police for investigations. There was also no evidence that disciplinary action had been taken or a board of enquiry instituted.

The audit said when the ministry’s accounting officer was taken to task, he conceded that the ministry’s establishment had no room for any vacancy. He indicated that some 1 260 existing posts of ward officers under the Ministry of Women’s Affairs were going to be converted and transferred to his ministry to cater for the recruitment.

He attributed failure to follow laid-down procedures and the absence of personal files to budgetary constraints to facilitate the purchase of files and stationery.

The accounting officer promised that he would produce a “vigorous and extensive audit” in the ministry, but it was never submitted to the Auditor-General, the report reads.

Last night, Youth minister Saviour Kasukuwere confirmed seeing the report, but said it had a “lot of inaccuracies”.

“I saw the report by the Comptroller and Auditor-General which is based on her own findings,” Kasukuwere said. “We are still studying the report as we feel that there are a lot of inaccuracies. The ministry’s accounting officer is looking at all the issues raised and carrying out our own investigations. Once we have completed, we will make an official response.”

The audit report also exposed the misapplication of funds in the Ministry of Agriculture.

“It was observed that US$21 738 for the Agricultural Revolving Fund was used for minister (Joseph Made)’s business cards, Internet router, head office provisions and  hotel bill. Audit considered that the above expenditure did not fall within the ambit of the Agricultural Revolving Fund’s core business,” the report said. “Funds allocated to statutory funds should only be applied to the services for which those funds were established. Accordingly, the minister should consider making arrangements to refund to the fund the monies thus spent.”

In the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, the Auditor-General uncovered unvouched expenditure.

 

The auditee incurred expenditure amounting to US$1 909 without supporting documents. However, a statement was prepared by the auditee to confirm the expenditure amounting to US$382.”

Irregularities were also found in the Ministry of Industry and Commerce where the ministry’s total vehicle holding had been depleted after former Minister Obert Mpofu and his ex-deputy Phineas Chihota and permanent secretary took possession of cars they had been using before leaving the ministry.

“The former cabinet minister took possession of two motor vehicles which he had been using before leaving the ministry, the former deputy minister was authorised to purchase the vehicle which he has been using before leaving the ministry, the former permanent secretary took possession of four motor vehicles which he had been using when he left the ministry and one vehicle was allocated to an officer who was assigned to carry out duties outside the country,” reads the report. It  further states the allocation was unauthorised.

Former Minister of Transport and Infrastructure Development Chris Mushohwe and his ex-deputy Hubert Nyanhongo and permanent secretary are said to have taken possession of three motor vehicles each they were using before they left the ministry and relevant authorities for the acquisitions were not produced during the audit.

 

Wongai Zhangazha