Hats off to Mildred Chiri

LONDON - The principle of accountability is the hallmark of any successful democracy.

It holds that government officials — whether elected or appointed — should be held to account for their decisions and actions.

It is fair to suggest that in this country democracy is at best inchoate at times reluctantly accepted as a concept of governance.

Transparency and democratic accountability have been lacking. Without accountability and transparency, democracy is impossible.

This lack of accountability and transparency has held back Zimbabwe’s evolution into a full democracy over the years apart from the paucity of human rights observance and electoral rectitude.

In the past week or so, we have been transfixed on the histrionics of one quarrelsome “lady” — so quarrelsome she could start an argument or fight in an empty room — making all sorts of allegations, among them, of corruption against a perceived enemy.

Yet there’s another woman who works with quiet efficiency against government corruption, almost unnoticed.

Mildred Chiri, the Comptroller and Auditor-General, is, of course, not a politician, the reason she works with quiet dignity, until her periodic reports.

She is a civil servant.

Still, Chiri does not receive the plaudits she deserves considering the systemic aversion to transparency, the little resources at her disposal, and how partisanship has become the tool for survival for civil servants too. 

To appreciate the enormity of her work, we have to understand that she operates against a deliberately opaque bureaucracy unwilling to have its inequities exposed.

For example, in her latest audit report, Chiri said the ministry of Defence has for years, refused her access to compare departmental assets. This lack of transparency exposed them to theft.

Chiri also noted that the military was breaching an instruction which stipulates that no salary advances should be made to an officer until advances made in previous months have been accounted for and deducted from the salary.

Some officers had been issued with up to nine advances.

The report also reveals that the President’s Office paid for assets valued at about $500 000 without attaching invoices to validate the payments.

Chiri works with refreshing candour and impartiality exposing some of these often dreaded institutions and offices which seem to operate above the law and accountability.

She works with minimal resources given the government’s poor resources. Yet her reports, under the circumstances, are quite substantial.

Her latest report also covered the period of the coalition government.

The report said out of the $15 million dollars expenditure of the then Prime Minister’s Office, the office could not provide 24 payment vouchers for auditing.

It is difficult to prove if the expenditure was incurred for the intended purpose.

Zimbabwe ranks highly in the premier league of corrupt nations internationally.

In general, Chiri’s report shows rampant abuse of state resources by the president’s office, government ministries, state enterprises and parastatals.

It says wasteful expenditure and fraudulent activities were rampant in most ministries and that there was poor management of domestic and foreign travel allowances.

Eighteen ministries failed to maintain proper asset records, circumvented tender procedures and others collected revenue which was not surrendered to Treasury.

A variance of $170 million collected by Treasury and amounts collected by line ministries pointed to either understatements or overstatements of revenues collected.

Contrary to the antics of another woman (she has not been naming targets of her vitriol either) who has been throwing around unsubstantiated allegations to settle personal scores, Chiri has presented reports backed by evidence.

Not only does Chiri work with quiet efficiency, she does not seem to attract the controversies around partisanship associated with others whose titles are also suffixed with “general” — prosecutor, registrar, police commissioner.

It is not enough, of course, to just expose decadence. Those responsible should act on the serious malpractices she raises if we are going to achieve democratic and bureaucratic accountability, and end government corruption.

Still we can’t fault Chiri for doing her part, can we?

Hats off to her.

Comments (2)

Where can we find the report?

Audrey - 23 October 2014

we salute Mrs Chiri, you have been so proffessional and acted with a good deal of integrity given the nature of duty,please keep up this fighting spirit in your future appointments .i guess you are very fit for much bigger and challenging role in the world at large, move on

tazviona - 27 July 2017

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