CHAIRPERSON of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Paurina Mpariwa (pictured) has hailed Auditor-General (AG) Mildred Chiri’s work with her committee in exposing financial malpractices in government departments and State enterprises and parastatals (SEPs).
By VENERANDA LANGA
Mpariwa, who is also Mufakose MP (MDC-T), said she managed to maintain her chairpersonship in the PAC because of hard work and that the committee managed to produce eight reports last year.
The following are excerpts of an interview between NewsDay Senior Parliamentary Reporter Veneranda Langa (ND) and Paurina Mpariwa (PM) on different issues pertaining to the duties of the PAC.
ND: You maintained your chairpersonship to the Public Accounts Committee. What do you attribute that to?
PM: It was because of the good performance of the committee in terms of the work we put forward in Parliament, working together with the Auditor-General Mildred Chiri’s team in doing analysis of audited accounts of ministries, State enterprises and parastatals.
I also was one chairperson who managed to bring together MPs from different political parties, Zanu PF,
MDC-T, MDC in the PAC. We worked well together with no politics at play.
Other committees are affected by squabbles along political party lines, and they could not present committee reports, due to partisan disagreements.
In parliamentary committee work, it is important to bring every political party on board.
ND: Why is it important that the opposition should chair the PAC?
PM: It is because of the Parliamentary Standing Rules and Orders (SROs) which stipulate that PAC should be chaired by the opposition.
PAC is not a portfolio committee, it is a standing committee whose mandate is derived from the Constitution, as well as in the SROs.
It is special and different from other parliamentary committees in that other committees can be merged or re-structured, but PAC’s role is clearly stated in the Constitution.
It is chaired by members of the opposition so that it plays its oversight role over government departments well.
It cannot be chaired by the ruling party because one cannot set, write and mark their own examination.
ND: What were the main achievements of PAC in 2017?
PM: I would say that the main achievements were being able to rally all MPs from different political parties to work together.
We managed to hold capacity building workshops, where we carried out analysis of accounts of different ministries, parastatals and local authorities, and reports of the Auditor-General.
We managed to analyse reports of different entities and to point out those that were not in good standing in terms of timelines of submission of reports and those which failed to follow the recommendations by the AG.
Some MPs could not understand the language of accounting and audit and so we did capacity building so that everyone in PAC understood that language.
We managed to present a total of eight reports before Parliament.
Some of the reports that we worked hand in glove with the AG’s Office to bring before Parliament were reports on the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ), National Social Security Authority (NSSA), Grain Marketing Board, the Finance and the Transport ministries, and we also have a standing report on the Higher Education ministry.
ND: What were some of the damning issues that you highlighted in the reports?
PM: Most of the misdemeanours by ministries were that they did not appoint board members for certain parastatals, which continued to operate without boards.
In certain instances, they recycled board members and this did not bring in new ideas.
I am glad that Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa has now come up with a framework in terms of conformity to the Public Finance Management Act and they have tabled reforms to the manner in which State enterprises, parastatals and local authorities should operate.
We are now happy as PAC that reports are now tabled in Parliament on time.
ND: So, are you saying that all ministries are now tabling their reports before Parliament on time?
PM: Other ministries have tabled their reports on time, whereas others have not done so.
As PAC, we have to say which are the parastatals and government departments that we need to focus on and ensure they appear before the committee to answer questions on their audited reports because their accounts will be in shambles.
Due to our interventions, you now find that NSSA and the NRZ accounts are now up to date in terms of submitting their reports to the AG for auditing.
This ensures that anomalies can be picked up without delays. There are some government departments that are two or three years behind in terms of submitting their accounts to the AG.
However, as the PAC, we feel the AG’s Office has been submitting audited reports on time and it has already submitted 2016 audited reports. It is now getting 2017 audited reports ready.
ND: What are the penalties for failure to submit reports on time by ministries and SEPs?
PM: The penalties vary and they are in terms of whether one has improved or not improved at all.
However, we can see efforts being made to submit reports. Whenever a ministry or parastatal has not submitted their financial reports, we call them to order by asking the Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda to write a warning letter to them.
We can also write to the Executive as PAC, and Cabinet demanding that the reports be submitted.
ND: What progress have you made in analysing the 2016 audited reports?
PM: The advantages we have had now are that Parliament’s Budget Office has been set up and they help us in analysing reports.
However, the problem we have had is that Parliament has had erratic sitting days and this has affected sitting days for the PAC to analyse audited reports.
We were also affected by the issue of resources. We are supported by the World Bank, United Nations Development Programme, and the African Development Bank, and when the resources are not there, it means that we cannot hold some analysis sessions.
However, I would like to pay tribute to these supporting organisations because they stood with us in 2017.
ND: Do you think that sittings for the PAC should be increased so that you deal with the backlog?
PM: It is important that even when Parliament is not sitting, the PAC should have extra sittings.
I once suggested this to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Mudenda, and he was in agreement that we need to split into three groups within PAC to look at audited reports of ministries, parastatals and local authorities in order to move with speed.
However, this has not happened because of the erratic sittings of Parliament.
ND: What is your general view on corruption?
PM: It has been there for a long time and if it is not addressed, Zimbabwe will remain poor.
What needs to be done is to ensure there is transparency and accountability in the manner State resources are used.
ND: What is your opinion on the AG Mildred Chiri and government plans to extend her tenure of office?
PM: The AG Chiri has been an excellent partner to the PAC. She and her team have worked very hard and without them, we could not have achieved anything.
We fully support her candidature, as well as the motion tabled by Chinamasa seeking her re-appointment to the position of AG.
I will personally second it because I think there is no need to replace her at the moment.
We also celebrate that she is a woman who has done us proud. We pay tribute to her team and hope in the coming year she will shine brighter in her work.