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Chiri shines light into dark corners

Editorial Comment

Auditor-general Mildred Chiri has once again exposed the ingrained corruption and inefficiencies in state institutions — as she has consistently done in previous years — and once again the ball is in the government’s court to end the rot.

Chiri presented her annual report for state enterprises and parastatals on Friday and what she uncovered, although not surprising given the history of unchecked abuse of state resources and institutions, calls into question the government’s commitment to fight graft.

One the most shocking scandals uncovered by the auditor-general happened at the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC), where it was revealed that the company had not taken delivery of a transformers it paid for nine years ago.

The struggling parastatals paid US$4,9 million to Pito Investments for the transformers that were never delivered.

Chiri said the same contractor was also paid US$561 935 in advance by the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) in 2016, but up to now nothing has been supplied.

During the same year, ZPC paid R196 064 to York International for gas that has not been delivered.

ZETDC and ZPC are subsidiaries of the power utility Zesa, which is struggling to generate enough electricity to meet demand because of ageing power plants and a severe drought.

Zesa has also been dogged by several scandals in the past and we don’t recall any decisive government action to ensure accountability.

The usual suspects such as Air Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe School Examinations Council and the Grain Marketing Board were also exposed by Chiri’s audit.

Several local authorities and government departments regularly flout the rules in the procurement of goods and services, the audits revealed.

The government is alerted to these discrepancies on a yearly basis, but nothing tangible is done to plug the loopholes.

Some of the leakages have a criminal dimension, but strangely the law enforcement agencies never take any interest in these audit reports.

The new government led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been high on rhetoric about ending corruption especially in state institutions, but very poor on delivery.

A number of cases of corruption that have been taken to the courts have collapsed spectacularly because of lack of proper investigations yet we have agencies such as the Auditor-General’s office, which can be utilised to expose the rampant abuse of state resources.

The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission needs to act on Chiri’s reports if it wants to be taken seriously.

Zimbabwe desperately needs a non-partisan approach in the fight against corruption and Chiri’s professionally done audits are a good starting point.

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