Auditor-General Mildred Chiri’s reports on government finances always read like a roll call of the most corrupt, extravagant and poorly managed entities.
news in depth BY XOLISANI NCUBE
The rogues include parastatals, ministries and local authorities that flout tender procedures and are a playground for looters.
Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa last week tabled three reports produced by Chiri’s office before Parliament.
Once again, the AG lived to her top billing, exposing plunder at some of the most unexpected places.
The report on state enterprises and parastatals for the year-ended December 2016, shines light on the rot at the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara), the authority that should be ensuring a pothole free road network.
Chiri discovered that Zinara paid its senior managers a staggering $3 000 annually for them to buy corporate wear.
As if that was not enough, the pampered managers received numerous allowances that were not provided for in their contracts, the report says.
“Two directors were paid allowances in excess of what was approved in their contracts of employment,” read the AG’s report.
According to the audit report, the directors were paid over $2 250 as entertainment allowances per month against an approved budget of $250 per, prejudicing the state of more than $18 000.
The directors were also paid representation allowances of $691, which were not provided for in their contracts. At least $16 000 was lost because of the anomaly.
Chiri said Zinara splashed another $6 300 per year on each of the top managers instead of $5 000 in holiday allowances. Zinara shells out 11% of its revenues to pay salaries and administrative costs against the 2,5% provided for in the Roads Act.
The authority also failed to provide documents to prove that $1,7 million worth of supplies were genuine.
“Zinara entered into a contract with a certain contractor to carry out road surfacing works at One Commando and Police General Headquarters (PGHQ),” the report says.
“The total amount of the contract was $447 154 for the works done.
“I observed that Zinara made payments amounting to $652 830 for works done at One Commando and PGHQ, which were $205 677 above the contract price and some payments were made without supporting documents.
Chiri said although management made a commitment to rectify the anomalies, she was not satisfied with Zinara’s compliance record.
The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) did not escape the dragnet after the AG discovered that the government could have been prejudiced of $42 million revenue from temporal import permits (TIPs) receipts last year.
Zimra failed to account for 26 996 temporal import permits during the audit.
“As at reporting date, 26 996 temporal import permits with potential duty stake of over $42 million had not been acquitted despite the fact that they had expired,” the report added.
“Some vehicles may have localised as they are long outstanding.”
The AG said some of the outstanding TIPs were for vehicles that entered the country as far back as 2013.
“The authority should liaise with the Central Vehicle Registry and Zinara to identify vehicles on TIPs that might have been localised,” she said.
“The control surrounding the acquittal process of TIPs should be reviewed.”
Chiri said the system Zimra used to capture information on the TIPs was susceptible to abuse, especially when officers were forced to use manual recordings of imports when the Asycuda system is down.
Zimra told the AG that an investigation had been launched to try and track down the vehicles and their owners.
Chiri said Zimra also paid one of its top managers a holiday allowance of $22 000 instead of $5 000, prejudicing the state of over $17 000.
In another instance, the tax authority paid $43 400 in school fees by mistake.
“For school fees paid, information on record reveals that this could have been an error,” Zimra said in its response to queries by the AG’s office.
“Corrective action will be taken to recover the amount overpaid.”
Zimra, according to the report, paid some allowances to its managers outside the payroll system and this meant that the employees were not taxed.
Meanwhile, Chiri observed that some ministries were overstaffed at a time when the government was claiming that it was cutting down on employment costs.
The AG singled out the Youth, Indigenisation, Economic Empowerment ministry after it was discovered it still had 964 posts that were abolished by the Public Service Commission in December 31 2016.
“Failure to rationalise (staff) may result in utilisation of public funds on employees who are no longer required,” Chiri added.
“Such funds could have been used to fund other critical operations of the ministry.”
The AG noted that Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs ministry last year failed to account or clear advances given to staff as travelling and subsistence’s allowances. The money that was not cleared amounted to $287 201.
According to the report, the Zimbabwe Prison and Correctional Services in 2015 diverted $68 778 from a fund set aside for medical facilities for inmates to cater for staff and their dependents.
Chiri said the diversion of funds had been an issue for the past four years and the prison authorities were disregarding the law.
The AG’s report also raised corporate governance issues at the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe where the audit unearthed that board members in 2016 received monthly fuel allowances outside the payroll system and were not being taxed.
“Furthermore, I noted that the board members were receiving monthly cell phone allowances amounting to $200 each which were subjected to withholding tax instead of Pay as You Earn,” Chiri said.
The National Social Security Authority (NSSA) public pension scheme was found to be paying executive salaries outside the stipulated framework.
Chiri said NSSA was directed by the permanent secretary in the ministry of Labour and Social Welfare to peg basic salaries for those in grade E at $7 775,13.
But workers contracts showed that they were being given a basic salary of $11 000, which was $3 224,87 above the stipulated figure.
Chiri questioned the amount of money used during the 2012 population census after the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency failed to explain the expenditure of $45 480 731 and other related payments amounting to $24 080 205.
“The agency failed to avail adequate evidence such as attendance registers for the 40 438 individuals who had participated in the census. There was no database/schedules with detailed and requisite information of the participants,” reads the report.
“Vehicle hire and rental expenditure amounting to $15 740 822 was not adequately supported.”
The government has in the past been accused of sitting on the AG’s reports, a situation that encourages impunity and lack of accountability at most state run institutions.