THE recent revelation of shocking negligence unearthed by the Auditor-General’s 2020 report has once again exposed the alarming levels of rot prevalent in government ministries. It is a damning indictment of the dismal failure of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s anti-corruption crusade. The findings in Auditor-General Mildred Chiri’s report on Appropriation Accounts, Finance and Revenue Statements and Fund Accounts reveal how millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money is going down the drain as a result of malfeasance in the corridors of government.
Among the revelations are a failure by Treasury to reconcile more than US$300 million in foreign direct payments on behalf of 16 ministries as well as the purchase of vehicles, laptops, Samsung Galaxy tablets and school desks, which were never delivered.
Government’s indifference to the alarming levels of maladministration exposed by Chiri’s office was part of the culture during the presidency of the late Robert Mugabe.
The declaration by his successor Mnangagwa that there will be no tolerance for “acts of indiscipline which have characterised the past” raised anticipation that finally the exposure from the Auditor-General’s office would be acted upon by the government and not gather dust in shelfs. However, more than four years after Mnangagwa’s inauguration, the status quo continues as the findings by Chiri largely remain an academic exercise. Mnangagwa’s anti-corruption threats have proved to be mere flowery rhethoric. It is all froth and no beer!
The statistics of the response to Chiri’s findings in the 2019 audit report reflect the lack of seriousness by government departments to address the revealed shortcomings.
This has fuelled the impunity with which taxpayers’ money is abused by the various ministries. Out of the 161 findings that were raised in the 2019 report, only 28% of them were fully addressed with 55% of the findings not addressed at all.
The failure by the administration to adequately fund the Auditor-General’s office, which is central to one of his key objectives of fighting corruption, also raises doubt about its sincerity to curbing graft.
This is the same situation with the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc), which Mnangagwa reconfigured when he was sworn in as president. Zacc is bogged down by serious funding challenges. This has weakened its ability to carry out its mandate of fighting endemic corruption. That the corruption busting body only secured four convictions for the whole of last year, one of which was for impersonation and another for contempt of court, does not inspire confidence that progress is being made to eradicate the scourge.
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The current commission has just nailed it as another toothless bulldog. Previous commissions were equally useless.
The need for Mnangagwa’s government to up the ante in fighting graft cannot be overemphasized, particularly at a time when the economy is in the doldrums and in need of significant investment inflows. Mnangagwa has spoken ad nauseam about the need to fight corruption.
Now is the time to follow it up with action.