Auditor-general Mildred Chiri has recommended proper monitoring of telephone usage by staff at the Transport and Infrastructural Development ministry after they incurred a $2 million telephone bill.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
This was exposed in the audit of the ministry’s appropriation account for 2014 where Chiri noted the ministry’s telephone bill was high; giving rise to suspicions that staff was probably misusing phones since 2012.
“The ministry’s telephones at head office are open to members of staff via the switchboard, but there are no measures in place to control the use of landlines such as limiting the time spent on private calls to reduce the cost of the monthly bill,” read Chiri’s audit report.
“As a result of weak controls, the Ministry of Transport had an outstanding telephone bill of $1 919 774 dating back to 2012.”
Chiri said the risk or implication of the telephone bill was that staff was abusing the telephone facility, leading to huge bills.
“The Ministry of Transport should introduce controls over the usage of telephones so that costs are minimised,” the Auditor General said.
When the ministry was approached on the matter, they said measures were being taken to control the use of landlines.
“A PABX system with a monitoring device has been installed. The outstanding balance of $1 919 774 is dating back to a time when balances were converted from the Zimbabwe dollar to the United States dollar,” the ministry responded. But, Chiri said her audit later established the PABX was not installed as stated by the ministry.
Chiri’s audit revealed that between January 2012 and May 2014 the ministry suffered a loss of $181 950 through fraudulent activities by an accounts clerk based in Victoria Falls.
“The accounts clerk resigned when the fraud was uncovered to avoid prosecution, but no subsequent action was taken to recover the loss suffered,” the audit unveiled.
The Auditor-General said failure to strengthen internal controls exposed public funds to misappropriation, adding delays in taking action on the suspect may send wrong signals to staff and management that fraud can be tolerated.
Management’s response to the audit was that they had reported the issue to the police in 2015, adding the reference number of the case could be made available for audit.
But Chiri said the ministry should have made more efforts to recover the money.