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Auditor-General pours scorn on ministries

By Pauline Hurungudo

Ministries under President Robert Mugabe’s regime blatantly violated tender procedures mostly in the purchase of motor vehicles, fuel and equipment, Auditor-General Mildred Chiri has said.

Auditor-General Midred Chiri (AFP Photo)
Auditor-General Midred Chiri (AFP Photo)

This emerged in audit reports for 2017 presented in Parliament by Auditor-General Mildred Chiri. The damning report slammed government ministries for flouting governance and procurement rules which was leading to abuse of funds and State assets.

Ministries bypassed the State Procurement Board (SPB) in violation of the law, which requires that all projects worth $10 000 or above should go through formal tender to enable it to get the best money can buy.

All State agencies namely ministries, departments, parastatals, local authorities are required by law to procure their purchases, loans, transfer or hire of supplies or services through the SPB.

This is meant to achieve efficiency and integrity in public procurement and to guarantee sound public service delivery while maintaining citizens’ trust in government.

An efficient public procurement should be cost-effective, fair, transparent and effective.

The only exception to this is when there is a directive to that effect from the president, which order should be issued in line with the Act.

Chiri revealed that government’s habit has persisted despite her recommendations and warning on implications and risks.

“During the current year (2017) some ministries and fund accounts purchased goods and services without following tender procedures.

“Tender splitting was still prevalent in some ministries especially where bulk buying was the case. The violation occurred mostly in the purchase of motor vehicles, fuel and equipment.”

According to Chiri, the discrepancies extremely escalated in 2017 which enumerated flouted tenders worth $3 788 495 in 2017 as compared to $1 025 384 in 2016.

This, according to Chiri, compromised resources which she said might have been diverted to unauthorised use.

The reports highlight shocking credibility deficiency, particularly in the use of public funds and tender management.

This comes amid concerns some tenders were issued through prejudice and nepotism, amid reports of some relatives and spouses of big wigs procedurally bagging lucrative government tenders.

This comes as domestic debt is rising at an alarming rate amid calls for a debt audit amid concerns about transparency and accountability.

Chiri said that a total of $3 788 495 was spent through a flawed tender process in the Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development ministry, and 38 percent of the fund was incurred in STEM Zimbabwe Development Fund expenditure on goods and services.

According to Chiri’s report, a number of ministries had taken heed of her recommendations from the last reports.

However, some ministries were reported to be perpetually infringing tender procedures.

“Ministry of Finance continued, despite recommendations in my last report, making payments to various suppliers of goods and services on behalf of ministries and in most cases without adequate documents,” Chiri said.

The National Coordinator Fund at the Environment, Water and Climate ministry and the District Development Fund from the president and Cabinet office were amongst those reported to have flouted tender procedures.

“The administrators of the fund purchased a server for an amount of $50 715 without going to tender in contravention of Part II Section (4)(2) pf the Procurement Act (Chapter 22:14) which requires the procuring entity to seek tenders in accordance with the procedure for informal tenders for goods and services extending $10 000.

Besides tenders, ministries were also reported to be flouting treasury procedures by making unauthorised transactions, which also compromised public funds.

“Three ministries transferred monies from Paymaster General Account amounting to $17 943 820, without Treasury authority, to their respective fund accounts… I could not therefore satisfy myself if the public funds were used for the intended purpose,” Chiri said.

The responses from some of the ministries failed to suffice Chiri’s indulgence, as she was not convinced by some statements from ministries which she said lawlessly violated the Procurement Act (Chapter 22:14) and Public Finance Management Act (Chapter 22:19). Daily News