Candid Comment: Investigations not enough, punish offenders

Ministry of Finance and Economic Development permanent secretary George Guvamatanga

THIS week’s reports that the government was probing several suppliers and its own staff for looting shows that there was progress in the fight against mismanagement in government.

But it must not end there.

Real action can only be felt if those on the wrong side of the law are arrested and punished.

As we report in this edition, suppliers that have invoiced government but failed to deliver goods, together with government officials, who have authorised the deals are now under investigation.

In a normal society, these people would be arrested, with their firms blacklisted.

But it is also important to note that the government’s accounting systems are weak. This is why they have failed to detect early that cartels were being paid multiple times for a single delivery.

Millions of taxpayers’ money have been being spirited out. This has become a serious concern. Speaking in Harare recently, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development permanent secretary George Guvamatanga said there were individuals and companies who were being paid for goods, which they never supplied.

“Another very disturbing trend in the public procurement system is what is now called in the streets ‘air supply’ where invoices are generated and payments made but nothing is delivered. We are currently further strengthening our procurement systems,” he said.

“We have several cases currently under investigation. This is a very strong warning to all of those who have been involved in this ‘air supply’ that your time has come to an end and the system we have put in place will make sure that you are all ploughed out wherever you are hiding.”

Judging by Guvamatanga’s tone, it looks likely the government is intensifying its anti-corruption drive.

But, as I have said, that will not be enough to address the current challenge.

Revenues are being lost through a weak accounting system and transformation in the government seems pagan.

The government needs to move with speed and revamp its financial accounting system.

There is need for political will to achieve good accounting standards.

Concerns around weak financial accounting systems come at a time when President Emmerson Mnangagwa is forging ahead with the economic development agenda. The rampant indiscipline will militate against this initiative.

Several projects in mining, agriculture, manufacturing and retail, among others, have been launched.

But taxes coming from those projects are being flushed down the drain.

The Auditor General, Mildred Chiri, has on several occasions produced reports exposing massive indiscipline in the country’s accounting systems. Shockingly, no action has been taken.

Without a strong accounting system, Zimbabwe is going nowhere, unless the problem at hand is quickly resolved.

Zimbabwe cannot wait for another day to see justice prevailing and financial discipline fostered in government.

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