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Authorities must act on corruption reports

NOTHING illustrates government’s complicity in the corruption besieging the country more than its failure to act on the Auditor and Comptroller-General Mildred Chiri’s annual reports which never disappoint in exposing entrenched graft, abuse of public resources and misgovernance at state entities.

Candid Comment with Stewart Chabwinja

The latest instalment of the report beats a familiar path, exposing among others, massive impropriety in most government ministries, the shambolic condition of state enterprises and parastatals, non-production of asset registers and egregious disregard of clearly laid down regulations and procedures.

The report comes against the backdrop of sensational media revelations earlier this year of corruption at state enterprises, parastatals and local authorities, with executives raking in “obscene” salaries despite the parlous state of their entities and the economy at large. The mildly-anticipated — on a count of government’s record of inaction — crackdown on graft has since failed to materialise despite systematic, sustained and scandalous revelations.

While scarce public funds are channelled towards producing the useful audit report, its production has become a mere ritual for, despite consistently exposing the rot and general malaise at the concerned enterprises, its findings are filed away without adopting corrective measures.

During this year’s Mid-Term Fiscal policy Review, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa bemoaned the fact that most of the key public entities continued to underperform, in the process incurring deficits, thus remaining an albatross around the struggling fiscus’ neck. as oft-cited in Chiri’s reports, Chinamasa said the poor performance of public entities is largely attributable to weak corporate governance systems and resistance to reform proposals by management.

“Challenges related to our public enterprises manifest through unsustainable salaries, allowances and benefits for top managers at the expense of service delivery; weak oversight on public entities underline ministries’ purview, absence of boards to give direction to a public entity … and corrupt practices,” he said.

These challenges highlight the need for government to implement sustainable and practical turn-around strategies, Chinamasa said, without divulging them. But any turnaround intervention not informed — at least in part — by Chiri’s recommendations would be an exercise in futility.

Government is aware of the root cause of the problems perennially bedevilling parastatals and state entities, but remains unmoved to act, giving further credence to the existence of a politically expedient patronage network run by the ruling elite. It is time parliament awoke from its deep slumber and played its oversight role by pressuring ministers to account.

While Chiri’s reports are conveniently ignored thanks in part to our shirking MPs, South Africa’s Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, whose role is analogous to that of our Auditor and Comptroller-General, has given South African President Jacob Zuma and the ruling ANC nightmares on accountability issues. Madonsela reports are taken seriously, with parliament demanding answers and corrective measures.

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