CSOs demand release of 2019 Auditor-General report

BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA

PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has been accused of deliberately delaying the release of the 2019 Auditor-General’s report, which civil society organisations (CSOs) suspect could contain damning exposés of abuse of public funds.

The audit report, which was supposed to be tabled before Parliament mid-June last year, has not yet been released and government has remained mum about it.

The CSOs claimed that government was preventing Auditor-General Midred Chiri from publicising the 2019 audits of government, parastatals and local authorities accounts, which would expose public officials.

Former chairperson of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee, Tendai Biti, told NewsDay that although the audit process could have been stalled by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, it should have been published by now.

“Audit reports should be released on time as stipulated in the Public Finance Management Act to guarantee public finance accountability,” said Biti, who also once served as Finance minister.

“Citizens need to know how their money is being utilised and they can monitor it through the Auditor-General’s report. Failure to provide the report for public scrutiny is, therefore, unconstitutional.”

In the past, the AG’s reports have revealed abuse of millions of dollars in public funds.

Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum executive director Musa Kika said it had become the norm that government-run institutions failed to provide public reports timeously, which resulted in public financial losses going unchecked.

“Delay of the AG’s report exposes accountability and transparency deficits in an office that is supposed to exert accountability on others. These reports are for the public, who are the stockholders of public power and public resources, and must always have occasion to inspect them,” he said.

“Unfortunately, this appears to be a standing practice with many State-affiliated or constitutional offices that do not take time stipulations for release of reports seriously.”

Presidential spokesperson George Charamba said he could not comment on the matter.

“I cannot comment on issues in the AG’s office. Her office is better placed to answer your questions,” Charamba said.

Chiri could not be reached for comment on her mobile phone.

During a recent discussion on public finance management, Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development official Angella Mandoreba said the problem with failure to release the AG’s report was that some public officials that might be implicated could be leaving office and going outside the country before they were held to account for misuse or abuse of funds.

“We are almost mid-2021 when the 2019 report hasn’t yet been released so by that time the AG’s report will be presented well after people have forgotten some of the important issues in the report. Timeliness is crucial in publishing such reports which are important for the public to monitor how public funds are utilised,” Mandoreba said.

Gweru Urban MP Brian Dube (MDC Alliance) said the challenges were not about inefficiency by the AG.

“She has done her part in coming up with the audit reports, but the problem is on implementation. There is a need for government to craft laws to punish and deter those who fail to implement recommendations on public funds management.”

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