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Ministry still to return misappropriated funds

THE Ministry of Agriculture is still to return more than US$21 000 meant for the Agricultural Revolving Fund that it misappropriated and used for minister Joseph Made’s business cards and hotel bill, as most ministries applied for condonation from treasury for misapplication of funds, vehicles and fuel.

More than a year after the Comptroller and Auditor-General Mildred Chiri exposed gross misappropriation of state resources by ministers and their deputies, and irregularities and inadequacies in the payroll administration, many ministries noted the recommendations but have taken no action to address the issues.
The report — a special audit on ministerial accounts by Chiri — for the first quarter of 2009 financial year — the also highlighted unlawful recruitment of over 10 000 youths.
Chiri recommended that the ministries return the money, fuel and vehicles, among other things, that they used for projects not assigned or authorised and once returned, the funds were to be applied to the services for which they were established.
But a year-on, some ministries are still to fully comply with the recommendations, with many applying for condonation.
A document complied of the ministries’ response to Chiri’s recommendations for the Zimbabwe Independent this week shows that the Ministry of Agriculture is yet to reimburse $21 738 meant for the Agricultural Revolving Fund.
“The revolving fund has not yet been reimbursed by the ministry. What the ministry has done is to write to the Ministry of Finance seeking condonation of this expenditure. Ministry of Finance has not yet responded to this request,” reads the report.
The Ministry of Youth Development that was singled out as the worst case of abusing government recruitment procedures when it employed 10 277 youths between May 2008 and June 2008 without the existence of posts in the ministry’s establishment tried to regularise the employment of the youths, but  this was yet to be approved.
According to Chiri’s 2009 Special Audit report, the youths were deployed throughout the country as ward officers, which was a violation of a treasury instruction that stated “no officer shall be appointed unless an appropriate vacancy exists on the authorised establishment and no unestablished officer shall be appointed for specific work unless adequate provision has been made for the purpose”.
“The Ministry (Youth) applied for condonation of salary expenditure incurred arising from the employment of 10 277 ward youth officers from May 2008. However it is yet to be granted together with the treasury concurrence for the creation of an additional 13 950 youth officers,” Chiri said was the ministry’s response.       
According to the report, all duplicated payees from the youth ministry who were 458 on the payroll were removed and the payment of salaries through the imprest accounts was stopped.
“Reconciliation was done and all the uncollected salaries in the imprest accounts were receipted into the exchequer account,” read the report.
The Ministry of Water was said to have not made any formal response to recommendations that seven vehicles involved in an accident be investigated and that a full departmental investigation be undertaken to ensure that the claims made for fuel are genuine and are a proper charge to public funds.
Former Transport Minister Christopher Mushohwe, his deputy Hubert Nyanhongo and their permanent secretary allocated themselves three cars each. Chiri said they have since managed to get authority for the acquisition of the motor vehicles.
Chiri said the collection of rentals at government properties by the Ministry of Public Works had not improved and that tenants, especially civil servants, have not been paying rent from 2006
“The collection of rentals has not yet improved,” noted Chiri. “However, we are told that the Ministry’s Valuation and Estates management department is in the process of coming up with lease agreements for all tenants occupying government commercial properties.
“The functions of collecting rentals from residential properties has been moved to the Ministry of National Housing who are mandated to maintain the tenant ledgers. Indications from the Ministry of public works point to the fact that these rentals are not being collected since the salaries of civil servants have remained depressed.”
The Ministry of Public Service that was reported in the 2009 report that it neither recorded in the vehicle register nor in the donations register a total of 14 vehicles donated to the ministry by the Reserve Bank in 2008 and it also failed to produce vehicle registration papers to the auditors and is said to be still working on doing that.
“Generally I am really happy and satisfied with the outcome of our findings of this report because ministers have gone out of their way to try to implement our recommendations and we are still in the process of trying to verify what they have said they have done. I think this is a good development and I wish it could continue into 2010 and beyond,” she said.
Chiri said the only challenge they faced in following up on ministries was the breakdown of computerised accounting software.

 

Wongai Zhangazha

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