AG’s report: Parliament dropping the ball

24 May, 2020 - 00:05 0 Views
AG’s report: Parliament dropping the ball

The Sunday Mail

Lincoln Towindo

IN the next few weeks, a customary event will take place in Parliament.

The Auditor-General Mrs Mildred Chiri’s annual report will be tabled before the House in terms of Section 309 of the Constitution and the Audit Office Act (Chapter 22:18).

The AG’s report, in general terms, is a consolidation of an audit of financial statements and financial management of all Government ministries, public bodies and independent offices.

Mrs Chiri is a respected auditor, whose work speaks for itself.

Over the years, her office has churned out scores of proficient audit reports into the use of public finances.

Most have been damning.

Through her work, the public has been afforded a peek into management or rather mismanagement of its finances by those entrusted with high office.

Often her work shines a light into the darkest of crevices in public offices, exposing the “big fish”, even those considered “sacred”.

Her work has exposed sleaze, corruption, abuse of office and downright skulduggery by public officers in all forms. It is fair to say that her office is one of the most trusted public offices in the country.

Her controversial sacking by former President Robert Mugabe in 2017 led to a public uproar, a testament to her popularity.

She was subsequently rehired by President Mnangagwa later that year, after Parliament rejected the appointment of Mike Ndudzo as her replacement.

And she has not disappointed since then.

Her subsequent reports have been illuminating, fair and thorough in equal measure.

Her forthcoming report for the 2019 financial year will, in all likelihood, be similarly intriguing and comprehensive.

However, what we all may have learned from experience over the years is that pretty much little is done in the way of following up on her excellent work.

In days and weeks subsequent to the report’s tabling, much of the country goes into an emotional tailspin as the reality of crass malfeasance, incompetence and debauchery is laid bare.

Parliamentarians then give long and loaded monologues in the House threatening hell fire upon those fingered for wrongdoing in the report.

Soon the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) and the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) join in on the bandwagon, threatening to take action against the accused officials.

But the clamour soon dies down and once the hard-hitting exposes are overtaken by the news cycle, we hear very little, nay, nothing more from these officials. It would be as if nothing ever happened in the first place.

We then have to wait for the following year’s report and the cycle repeats itself, again.

The long and short of the argument here is that not much is done in following up on the leads offered by the AG’s report.

Only two Parliamentary Portfolio Committees appear to have taken a semblance of interest in following up on the AG’s reports — Mayor Justice Wadyajena’s committee on Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement, and Tendai Biti’s Public Accounts team have done commendably well in making follow-ups.

The rest have largely been disappointments.

Committees expend little energy on following leads unearthed by the AG.

The ideal relationship between the institutions of Parliament and the AG’s office should be one of partnership and collaboration. Both are institutions with a specific mandate of providing oversight over the executive and its various arms.

After all, it is Parliament that appropriates resources to the executive.

This means they are in essence the custodians of the national purse by virtue of being responsible for appropriation.

At the end of each financial year, the executive has to account for every cent given to it by Parliament to the AG.

It is only through the AG that Parliament can ascertain whether the funds it appropriated have been applied lawfully and in an effective way.

Sadly, it seems that the collaboration between these two institutions begins and ends with the tabling of the AG’s report by the Finance Minister.

Madam Chiri has acquitted herself well, but sadly Parliament has disappointed.

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