Treat parastatal audits seriously

ELSEWHERE in this issue, we carry a story revealing that some parastatals have not been audited since 2009 while the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) and several state-owned enterprises have not submitted their accounts for many years. Eight long years! This is criminal dereliction of constitutional responsibilities. There are no two ways about it. Section 9 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe stipulates that: “The State must adopt and implement policies and legislation to develop efficiency, competence, accountability, transparency, personal integrity and financial probity in all institutions and agencies of government at every level and in every public institution.”

Zimbabwe Independent Comment

The government’s mismanagement of public funds is the stuff of legend, but even by its astonishing standards this latest revelation is mind-boggling. When those mandated with the crucial responsibility of safeguarding the public purse decide to tear the law to shreds, what recourse does the law-abiding taxpayer have? Who is held accountable?

The state-run National Handicraft Centre and National Library and Documentation Services were last audited in 2009, in flagrant violation of the principles of good governance.

Other parastatals which have not been audited for years include national flag carrier Air Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda) and one of the country’s major referral medical institutions, Mpilo Central Hospital. Nobody should be stunned by the endless scandals that have emerged from these institutions. What should we expect, in all seriousness, when parastatals go unaudited for years?

We find it unacceptable, outrageous and unpalatable that the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) — an independent commission created in terms of the constitution to combat corruption through investigating and exposing cases of graft in both the public and private sectors, as well as promoting financial discipline and transparency — was last audited in 2012.

How on earth is Zacc expected to command public confidence in the fight on corruption when the constitutional institution is itself violating the cardinal precepts of good governance? When you closely scrutinise the list of parastatals that have not been regularly audited, a clear pattern emerges. The Cold Storage Company (CSC) was last audited in 2013. The company, once Africa’s leading meat supplier, has been reduced to a derelict scrapyard. It sounds like a folktale today that the CSC used to supply the European Union with world-class beef. Air Zimbabwe, Mpilo Hospital and the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation were last audited in 2014. These are scandal-ridden institutions where some senior officials have repeatedly looted public funds. Without accountability, good governance is rendered a hollow slogan.

The National Assembly must now put its foot down and hold the government accountable. The Public Accounts Committee, in particular, has a responsibility to follow up on public audits. This organ has the power to summon ministers and permanent secretaries, as well as demand answers. Public officials must uphold the tenets of responsible leadership; taxpayers deserve respect. Leadership, after all, is the privilege to better the lives of others.

Top