The Sunday Mail
The Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Ministry paid close to US$10 million to idle workers last year, while US$4 million from the Youth Development and Employment Creation fund could not be accounted for.
In her report for the financial year ended December 31, 2016 on appropriation accounts, finance and revenue statements and fund accounts; Auditor-General Mrs Mildred Chiri revealed issues bordering on fraud, poor corporate governance and flouting of tender procedures.
She noted that the Youth Ministry used US$1,8 million from the Youth Development and Economic Empowerment Fund as colletaral for loans issued to private individuals who are not paying back the money. Mrs Chiri said the ministry, headed by Minister Patrick Zhuwao, understated employment costs for 2016 by US$9 862 963.
“Payments in respect of employment costs processed by the Salary Services Bureau amounted to US$36 955 752, whilst the ministry’s ledger had US$27 092 789, leaving a variance of US$9 862 963 unaccounted for and unreconciled. “As a result of the above, I was not convinced that the appropriation account shows a true position in respect of expenditure incurred under salaries and allowances.”
In response, the Youth Ministry said the money related to employees affected by Public Service Commission-led restructuring. “The affected members are still at work, at their respective work stations in the ministry but are no longer on the establishment. The members are still waiting for redeployment,” said the ministry.
Mrs Chiri insisted that any money relating to salaries and allowances must be part of the ministry’s wage bill. She also pointed out that the ministry was supposed to streamline its workforce from 6 271 to 2 585, amid indications that it partially implemented a staff rationalisation directive by abolishing 3 686 posts.
Mrs Chiri said over US$91,7 million was advanced to private and public enterprises in loans through ministries and fund accounts without loan agreements. “This exposed the Government in cases of entities defaulting on repayments. Normally, most contributions of funds have no provision for lending money so this was contrary to their objectives,” she said.
Mrs Chiri also said: “During the period under review, a total of US$222 791 was misappropriated from appropriation/ministry and fund accounts. This was due to weak internal controls coupled with the assignment of payment duties to administration personnel instead of accountants.
“Some fund accounts were processing payments which were inadequately supported. Without the supporting documents, it was difficult to determine the nature of the payments and whether they were being done in accordance with rules and regulations and in line with the mandate of the fund. The unsupported total expenditure was US$8 325 064.”
The Auditor-General said the issues she raised in her audit report called for urgent attention as required by Section 298 of the Constitution.
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa told the National Assembly last Wednesday that a special unit in his ministry was studying Mrs Chiri’s recommendations.