Graft-busting Auditor-General Mildred Chiri’s latest reports are enlightening as to the kind of people we have managing critical State-owned enterprises and parastatals.
The impunity of the people charged with running the parastatals is staggering, to say the least, and speak to the failure of the system to deal with graft at all levels of government.
It confirms long-held opinions that for the government of the day, parastatals are just jobs for the boys and are plundered to maintain a treacherous culture of corruption that has oiled previous and current administrations, leaving the economy bleeding and irretrievably broken.
According to Chiri, the Zimbabwe Electricity and Distribution Company ( ZETDC) paid US$4,9 million for transformers nine years ago, but still has not taken delivery of the critical equipment.
She says of ZETDC’s fellow Zesa Holdings subsidiary, the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC): “The same contractor was also paid in advance an amount of US$561 935 by ZPC in 2016 and has not delivered. In addition, ZPC also paid R196 064 in 2016 to York International for gas that has not been received.”
Chiri’s report on State enterprises and parastatals makes several alarming revelations: The Grain Marketing Board in 2016 made advance payment of US$1 014 163 for grain that has not been delivered.
The Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council acquired a printing Press in 2016, but continued to outsource printing of the June and November 2017 examinations, costing the taxpayer US$2 170 113.
Troubled national airline, Air Zimbabwe, Chiri said it could not account for three aeroplanes, provide documentation for operating expenses of $13 705 014 or petty cash expenditure of $654 587.
This is what we love most about Chiri: speaking truth to power and rattling her bosses with regular revelations of graft, profligacy and mismanagement of resources in government, parastatals and public institutions, even if no one is listening.
Chiri has become something of a heroin in Zimbabwe, pointing out a long list of excesses and thefts under former President Robert Mugabe and now Emmerson Mnangagwa.
It is time that the government, which made fighting corruption its number one priority, start acting on the abuse of public funds.
The evidence is now a matter of public record.
Former President Mugabe dismissed Chiri in July 2017, but reinstated her in September of the same year after Members of Parliament across the political divide opposed his plan to replace her with Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) boss, Mike Ndudzo.
She has been a breath of fresh air and an example of efficiency, while operating on a shoestring budget.
During her tenure, the annual Auditor-General’s reports, which had lagged behind since 2000, have become current.
And every report since 2014 has been tabled before Parliament by the half-year deadline. If Mnangagwa is looking for someone who embodies the spirit of sacrifice, dedication and efficiency, Chiri would be the poster face. It’s a shame all her hardwork has so far gone to waste, with government ignoring each shocking revelation of abuse of the taxpayer’s hard-earned money by public officials. Many of them, including ministers, remain in office today, despite documented years of thievery.
So, Mr President, if you want the public to take your so-called crusade against corruption seriously, start acting, or is the rotten system a symptom of a wider pillage of resources higher up? After all, a fish rots from the head.