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Transport Ministry scandals exposed

AUDITOR-General Mildred Chiri has revealed massive plundering of public funds at the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development where US$52 million released by Treasury to bail out three parastatals last year vanished without a trace.

BY ANDREW KUNAMBURA

In her 2018 audit report released last Friday, Chiri raised the red flag over the transactions saying there was a high possibility that the money could have been embezzled.

The audit revealed that the ministry failed to properly document US$52 142 369 in funding assistance to Air Zimbabwe (AirZim), Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (Caaz) and the Central Mechanical Engineering Department (CMED).

“The ministry provided funding assistance to Air Zimbabwe, Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe and the Central Mechanical Engineering Department of US$52 156 505, US$2 600 000 and US$12 963 861 respectively. The amounts differed with what was confirmed to have been received by the three entities. CMED received US$11 293 400 and AirZim and Caaz only received funding amounting to US$1 284 597 and US$2 000 000 respectively,” Chiri noted in her report.

She further noted various instances of journal entries which were made without receipts.

“The difference of US$52 142 369 was not accounted for,” Chiri said in the report, adding: “Journal entries that were used to introduce expenditure in PFMS system had no supporting documents to prove occurrence, existence of goods and assets procured, valuation and classification of expenditure. Treasury instructed the ministry to process journals that had supporting documents. This was contrary to Treasury instruction 1216 which states that before forwarding a cash voucher for payment or a journal voucher for adjustment, the officer initiating the transaction shall satisfy himself that the claim is a proper charge against public funds and is supported by the relative requisitions or an explanation and generally in order.”

Chiri noted that the unsupported payments raised the risk of fraud and recommended that all expenditure should be supported by relevant, reliable and sufficient documents to prevent such fraud.

The ministry management’s response, to the effect that the payments did not fall under lending and equity, did not satisfy the auditor-general.

“Air Zimbabwe was allocated US$52 156 505 for recapitalisation purposes and in our view, recapitalisation does not fall under lending and equity. Caaz was paid US$600 000 through IDBZ for outstanding certificates for J.M Nkomo International Airport. The payment was processed through the PFMS. On the issue of CMED not receiving the money, it was established that Treasury paid direct to Croco Motors through treasury bills and the ministry is in the process of obtaining a copy of the treasury bill which will be availed to the auditors and CMED for their record,” the ministry argued.

An unsatisfied Chiri, in her evaluation of the management response, noted that the three entities had denied having received any payment.

She also urged the ministry to engage them to clear the issue.

“Air Zimbabwe, CMED, and Caaz disputed receiving the money except for the balances as per my finding. There is need for the ministry to engage the respective entities to clear the issues,” Chiri reported.

Chiri’s forthright report, as has been the case with her other previous reports, has stirred the hornet’s nest as it pinpoints systematic abuse of the public purse by senior government officials.

The Auditor-General is constitutionally mandated to carry out audits of government ministries and their departments as well as parastatals and local authorities. The resultant audit reports are then tabled in parliament while the president and law enforcement agents are given the report for possible action.

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