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Auditor General takes swipe at CPU

The Department of Civil Protection (CPU) was poorly prepared to deal with the aftermath of Cyclone Idai, allowed food and other gifts to spoil by storing them too long in wet conditions, had poor record keeping of donations, delayed approving urgent payments from donated money, hired vehicles without contracts and did not properly control fuel use, Auditor General Mrs Mildred Chiri reports.

Auditor General Mrs Mildred Chiri
Auditor General Mrs Mildred Chiri

“I concluded that the CPU is not adequately prepared to manage disasters and has not been efficient in the distribution of some of the relief items and in rehabilitation of the infrastructure that was destroyed.

“On the other hand, the systems that are in place are not effective in terms of accounting for relief items,” said Mrs Chiri in her conclusion.

Her report hits the department hard over what she saw as poor administrative practices and she wants more training in stores management and matching donations to needs quickly in any future similar event.

Cyclone Idai affected Manicaland and parts of Masvingo provinces in March 2019 and claimed over 350 lives and left a trail of injuries and destruction.

In her audit report on the role played by the CPU after Cyclone Idai, Mrs Chiri said almost 34 tonnes of goods expired in Chimanimani while in the custody of the CPU by being stored on wet floors and that the CPU, when handing out the needed supplies or gifts, failed to record ID numbers of beneficiaries or have them sign for what they were getting.

Slow use of donated funds resulted in work stoppages as service providers demanded payment. The money was there but arrangements were not being made to use these gifts in time to pay for urgent work.

More importantly, the CPU is accused of failing to broadcast early disaster warning signs using 20 radio receivers donated by the Meteorological Services Department, and further failed to clear urgently lent dewatering pumps at Beitbridge Border Post until their use was no longer necessary.

Similarly 2 400 bags of cement donated by Bikita Minerals in May 2019 to the local CPU had not yet reached the District Development Coordinator at the time of audit in September 2019.

The audit also noted that vehicles were drawing more fuel than expected by the distance travelled, that no registration numbers of vehicles drawing such fuel were captured, and no contracts were signed for hired vehicles.

There were problems of over-ordering medical supplies. Mrs Chiri suggested provincial medical directors ensure that standard operating procedures are in place for a needs assessment as some drugs were dispatched to the Idai area that were not required, and so they sat in stock until they expired.

There were no proper requisitions for release of drug stocks as the Provincial Medical Director for Manicaland was using his discretion, and records of issues of drugs were written on sheets of paper.

Based on these findings, Mrs Chiri concluded that CPU was not prepared to cope with what it needed to do after the cyclone.

She recommended that District Civil Protection committees should ensure proper planning, training in stores management and needs assessment in order to ensure that received items are distributed while still suitable for consumption, rather than let them spoil in damp storage.

During a stock count on September 14, 2019, Mrs Chiri said she observed that 33 403kg of goods at Machongwe Forward Distribution Centre had expired, adding that the food items were exposed to high levels of moisture as they were stored on the floor without pallets.

She was critical of the slow use of donated funds, saying the financial assistance that was received through the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development was $1 972 758, US$3 033 449 and R20 000 000.

An examination of expenditure documents and bank statements, Mrs Chiri said, indicated there were funds that had been received but had not been used in 60 days, yet the affected provinces were unable to do their work due to financial challenges.

“For example, there were work stoppages on road works due to non-payment of contractors by the Department of Roads and PDC Manicaland was in need of $15 000 000 as reflected in their report dated June 3, 2019, but as at August 30, 2019 they had received only $5 160 000.”

The audit noted through the Zimbabwe National Water Authority that the delivery of five dewatering pumps donated by Xylem Water Solutions was delayed at Beitbridge Border Post resulting in the equipment getting to Mutare when there was no longer any need for dewatering.

The equipment was then returned to Xylem Water Solutions based in South Africa on July 18, 2019.

In its response to audit observations, the Manicaland Civil Protection Planning Committee said: “Indeed, the CPPC received the pumps but were neither aware of the request nor were they involved in the process of bringing in the pumps and clearing them at the border. They were irrelevant to the response and recovery work that we undertook.”

Regarding the hiring out of vehicles without contracts, CMED management said: “CMED could not come up with its own contract on CPU business but it was possible for CPU to hire vehicles.” The Chronicle

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