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Chiri bemoans poor funding

The big interview BY KUDA CHIDEME

Auditor General Mildred Chiri is back in the spotlight after producing yet another report detailing abuse of funds and inefficiencies in government departments and parastatals.

Some of the revelations in the report tabled in Parliament recently were that Zesa paid US$4,9 million to Pito Investments for 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.

Chiri (MC) told our business editor Kuda Chideme (KC) that her office was poorly equipped to audit government departments and parastatals. Below is the full
interview.

KC: Knowing what you know now, what would you change about your mandate as Auditor General?

MC: I am satisfied with the parameters of my mandate of auditing and reporting to Parliament.

The three arms of government — which are the legislature, judiciary and executive — have clear responsibilities outlined in the constitution.

The responsibilities of the different arms are operationalised by other Acts, for example, the Public Finance Management Act (Chapter 22:19), and these
complement my work.

KC: What is the most difficult aspect of your job?

MC: My work as an auditor is guided by the auditing standards and professional ethics.

Some stakeholders do not fully appreciate my mandate and may feel that I am exposing them as my reports are public documents read in and beyond Zimbabwe.

It is not easy to report on issues that were not done properly by any entity.

Meeting the statutory deadline of June 30 of each year, to submit the annual report for tabling after consolidating the audit findings for the whole public
sector brings with it a lot of pressure.

KC: What has been the most satisfying moment of your tenure as Auditor General?

MC: Being able to produce and transmit the annual report for tabling in Parliament before the statutory deadline of June 30 of each year.

KC: Year after year you keep on producing these reports, which reveal disturbing practices in our public institutions. What gives you the drive to keep on with
your work?

MC: I have a constitutional mandate to contribute towards transparency and accountability in financial matters as per Section 298 and 299 of the constitution.

Basically, my role is to give assurance on how the taxpayer’s money is used.

During my work, I get a lot of support from various stakeholders and cooperation of the entities I audit.

Over the years, I have seen some improvement in addressing issues that I raise in my report.

Government has also been taking measures to amend regulations to ensure effective accountability in response to my reports.

My reports are meant to help the executive and the legislature in making informed decisions in prioritising areas that need increased funding and strengthening
in controls, for example.

I am inspired by the need to make a meaningful contribution to my country in the space relating to accountability and transparency.

Further, Ecclesiastes 9:10, which says “whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might…” keeps me going.

KC: How do you manage to undertake your mandate on such a slim budget?

MC: My budget is slim, especially when it comes to visits to outstations where more manpower and vehicles are required, coupled with rising costs. As you may
see from my report, I managed to visit 549 stations out of 3 320, though I would have wanted to cover more.

I have focused on producing results with the available resources and I have a team of hardworking and dedicated staff who support me.

KC: How much more would you need to effectively run the office?

MC: Well, with the rising costs, it is difficult to come up with an absolute figure, but I can say more than doubling the current resources would go some way
in improving the budget allocation.

Ideally, the budget for my office should be a reasonable percentage of the national budget.

KC: Is your office adequately staffed?

MC: My mandate has expanded over the years and the manpower levels have not really increased in tandem with the increase in entities to be audited.

I am currently contracting out some of the audits to private chartered accounting firms.

The cash flow challenges have contributed to the slow progress in increasing manpower levels.

KC: What is your ambition for the office of Auditor General?

MC: It is my wish that all public entities become more transparent and accountable in their operations for the betterment of the lives of Zimbabweans.
Being the largest auditing firm, my further ambition is that the office achieves its vision of being the centre of excellence in the provision of auditing services.

KC: What does your typical work day entail?

MC: Each day comes with its own challenges, but the common activities include business meetings with internal and with external parties, evaluating opinions
proposed on accounts and updating oneself with developments in the country and in the profession.

KC: What plans do you have when your term of office eventually comes to an end? 

MC: Obviously after serving in this busy office, what comes to mind is to get some rest and take it slowly. I will have flexi-time, hence I may take up
advisory roles.

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