‘Auditor-General counsel hardly implemented’

GOVERNMENT departments seldom implement the recommendations by the Auditor-General, with just 108 out of the 435 recommendations made in the 2017 report having been implemented, it has emerged.

Melody Chikono

While the Auditor-General Mildred Chiri has been commended for being objective and independent in conducting her duties, Transparency International Zimbabwe says of concern are the recurring issues raised in audit reports year-in and year-out.

“This highlights that government departments seldom implement the recommendations highlighted in the Auditor-General’s Report. For example, out of 435 recommendations made in the 2017 Auditor-General’s Report, only 108 had been implemented at the time the 2018 audit was carried out,” TIZ noted.

Recurring issues include unauthorised and excessive expenditures, poor maintenance of accounting records, outstanding payments to suppliers of goods and services, poor assets management and violation of procurement rules and procedures.

TIZ notes that in 2018 alone, unauthorised excess expenditure was 70% of the total budget while the US$3,2 billion which was incurred by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development in 2018 was in violation of section 307 of the Constitution.

The section provides that if it is found that more money has been expended on a purpose other than was appropriated to it, or that money has been expended on a purpose for which no money was appropriated, the minister responsible for finance must introduce a Bill into the National Assembly seeking condonation of the unauthorised expenditure.

According to TIZ the delay in the finalisation of the 2019 Auditor-General’s Report compromises adherence to constitutional, legal and other policy frameworks governing public finance management.

“It limits the effectiveness of the audit reports to detect and deter public corruption, including fraud, waste, or abuse, and other misuses of the power and resources entrusted to public officials.

“The report is important in identifying corruption risks and vulnerabilities in the management of public resources and finances. As citizens await the 2019 Auditor-General’s Report in anticipation, the question remains, is there guarantee that the issues raised in the 2018 report were addressed?

“It is only through the 2019 Auditor-General’s Report that progress on the implementation of such recommendations can be tracked.” TIZ said.

Should it aim to regain public trust, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development should disclose to the public the reasons for the delay in publishing the audit results for the 2019 financial year, while also ensuring adequate funding of the Auditor-General’s office to increase its efficiency, the transparency watchdog pointed out.

“The Parliament of Zimbabwe must champion the coordination and enforcement of the Auditor-General’s recommendations by the various oversight and anti-corruption institutions. This will ensure that the findings of the Auditor-General remain relevant in promoting transparency and accountability in public finance management,” TIZ said.