Audit exposes Cyclone Idai looting

BY MOSES MATENGA

MILLIONS of dollars and thousands of litres of fuel, among other donated items meant to assist Cyclone Idai victims could have been looted, the 2020 Auditor-General Mildred Chiri’s report has revealed.

Chiri flagged the possible theft after State institutions failed to hand over their records for audit purposes.

“I noted with concern that there was inadequate co-ordination and liaison between the Local Government, Public Works and National Housing and Finance and Economic Development ministries resulting in the slow release of donated funds.

The 2020 audit report on Cyclone Idai donations in Manicaland and Masvingo provinces by the Civil Protection Department was tabled in the National Assembly by Finance minister Mthuli Ncube on Tuesday.

Chiri’s audit looked as how public resources channelled towards the March 2019 Cyclone Idai disaster that left a trail of destruction in Manicaland, Masvingo, Mashonaland East and Midlands provinces were accounted for.

She said resultantly most of the donated goods ended up expiring before reaching their intended beneficiaries.

“No proper ledgers were maintained in the warehouses or districts to enable audit trail of donations to be made.”

The report said fuel was abused by stakeholders.

“I noted that the distances travelled by some vehicles were not commensurate with fuel drawn. From the analysis of information provided, some vehicles travelled as low as 1,3km with a litre of fuel. In addition, some drivers did not indicate the fuel drawn on their log sheets, hence I could not determine the fuel consumed by those vehicles.

“Also requests for diesel amounting to 2 191 litres were issued with the Manicaland provincial development co-ordinator’s office authorising various vehicles to draw fuel from Central Mechanical Engineering Department (CMED), without information such as estimated mileage that the vehicle was supposed to travel, vehicle registration number, destination and request number.”

During stock count on September 14, 2019, auditors said 33 403kg of goods expired at Machongwe forward distribution centre due to poor storage.

“On the other hand, Chipinge district civil protection committee also received expired food items from the province which they later destroyed on August 21, 2019. I was concerned that the relief items expired while in the warehouse before being distributed to the affected people. It was also revealed from interviews held at the camps that beneficiaries had received expired mealie-meal and flour on various occasions.”

“I observed that no proper records for relief items received and disbursed were maintained. There was no uniformity in accounting for donations from Manyame Airbase to Manicaland and Masvingo provinces as there were no detailed dispatch documents and receiving registers for audit trail. Only a list of donated items was submitted for audit.”

She said Bikita Minerals donated 2 400 bags of cement to the Bikita district civil protection committee in May 2019, but the donation had not been received by the district development co-ordinator at the time of audit on September 12, 2019.

“There were still homeless victims, about 40 households within Bikita district who were living either in tents or had sought refuge at their relative’s homes waiting and hoping that the cement would bring out a positive impact to their lives by restoring their damaged structures.”

Chiri said there was no co-ordination in the collection and use of money, hence victims continued to suffer.

“For example, Manicaland was in need of $15 000 000 as reflected in their report dated June 3, 2019. As at August 30, 2019, they had received $5 160 000 through the Civil Protection Department head office, leaving a total of $9 542 090 received for Cyclone Idai activities.”

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