Auditor-General engages HLB Zim for forensic probe
Auditor-General Mildred Chiri’s office has appointed top global independent accounting and business advisory firm — HLB International — to conduct a wide-ranging forensic audit of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra). The audit covers an alleged car importation scam which forced the revenue collector in May to send its commissioner-general Gershem Pasi and five other senior executives on forced leave, businessdigest has learnt.
By Taurai Mangudhla
Sources close to the ongoing audit said HLB International was being represented by its local affiliates, HLB Zimbabwe Chartered Accountants (HLB Zimbabwe), who are already on the ground and expected to finish the process soon. It has also been established that Pasi and the five other executives will be prosecuted if they are found guilty of breaking both internal processes and the law in general.
“HLB has already started and it has local partners who are doing the work. The local offices are affiliated to the international firm to get research and access to latest standards and tools,” said a source who requested not to be named, adding the process was soon expected to be concluded.
The audit is expected to be concluded within six weeks, given Zimra had mid-May tendered for the services citing June 30 as the expected date of conclusion.
According to excerpts of a Zimra tender invitation document gleaned by businessdigest, the winning bidder was expected to conduct a forensic audit whose scope of work cover the period January 2014 to May 2016 focusing on seven items, including executive payroll and packages as well as secondment of Zimra staff.
The obtaining of loans by the executives and subsequent importation and clearance of motor vehicles by executives as well as procurement services by Zimra, including renovations of its Kurima House offices are also to be scrutinised.
The audit also covers procurement of uniforms, ICT equipment as well as construction of staff houses in Chirundu.
As reported by the Zimbabwe Independent, the Central Intelligence Organisation has also been implicated in the Zimra vehicle importation scandal, amid indications that it used a dodgy dealer to fraudulently import 21 Toyota Corolla vehicles last year.
“The firm shall produce a detailed report on the audit and where there is evidence of wrongdoing and criminal activity, prepare the necessary papers for the necessary prosecution,” read part of the tender document.
“As the assignment is required urgently, the firm shall submit a detailed report to the Auditor-General not later than June 30, 2016 highlighting findings, recommendations on corrective action to be taken (and) specific recommendations geared towards greater and better financial management, accountability and corporate governance of the organisation.”
Chisi’s office took longer than anticipated to appoint auditors, resulting in the organisation missing initial targets.
Zimra chair Willia Bonyongwe confirmed HLB were conducting the audit.
“HLB Ruzengwe are the forensic auditors. Their scope covers the executive package payroll and the governance issues surrounding HR and procurement. They will also cover the issue of the loans and car importation,” said Bonyongwe, adding, “They (HLB) are winding down now because they have been there for about five weeks.”
Efforts to get a comment from Chisi on the specific dates HLB Zimbabwe was appointed as well as the new timelines for submission of expected deliverables were fruitless as she could not be reached on her mobile at the time of going to press.
HLB Zimbabwe engagement partner Clement Ruzengwe could also not be reached for comment. An official at the company’s head office in Harare’s Alexandra Park suburb referred all questions to Chiri.
HLB International has operations in close to 130 countries, across the globe and has been in Zimbabwe since 1985.