Massive looting at parastatals exposed

HARARE - Auditor-General Mildred Chiri says Zimbabwe has been prejudiced of tens of millions of dollars in corruption scandals taking place at the country’s parastatals.

The depressingly familiar news comes at a time when the country is struggling to make ends meet, with the government continuing to fail to pay civil servants’ salaries on time.

In her latest report released this week, Chiri not only exposed the level of rot in State-owned enterprises, but also revealed how President Robert Mugabe and his close lieutenants had failed to deal with corruption since they came to power in April 1980.

Some of the companies that were exposed included the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra), Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara), the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ), the State Procurement Board, Zesa Holdings, National Social Security Authority (Nssa) and the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ).

Zimra was accused of prejudicing the government of nearly $1 million in presumed false input tax claims that were processed in 2014, as well as a further $1,2 million through “illegitimate Value Added Tax refunds in 2015 and prior years”.

“Included in the Outstanding Revenue Return is $3 587 606 which relates to taxes transferred by clients into the Authority’s bank accounts but not transferred to the commissioner general’s account for onward transfer to Exchequer Account prior to liquidation or judicial management (of banks). The recoverability of the full amount is doubtful,” Chiri said.

According to her report, the authority also appointed a human resources director between June and December 2015 when there was another substantive human resources director in the same post.

“The authorised staff establishment did not have provision for two human resources directors at the same time. There was no evidence of board approval prior to engagement of the second director for the period June 2015 to December 2015,” it said.

At Zinara, Chiri highlighted the fact that she had not been availed with payment vouchers for the parastatals’ expenditure amounting to a whopping $2,4 million.

“… hence I could not verify the validity and accuracy of the related expenditure. Upon inquiry, I was informed that the documents could not be located in the filing system,” she said.

Chiri added that various amounts of money had also been paid to Zinara contractors without proper documentation.

“The Administration made payments to contractors amounting to $3 723 333 for Initial Payment Certificates (IPCs) not approved or certified for completion by the responsible personnel,” she said.

The report said the proper procedure for these payments was that an IPC for each job needed to be approved or certified for completion by the responsible personnel prior to processing of the payment.

A further $1,1 million was also disbursed to the Department of Roads without supporting documents authorising the transfers and payments.

“Furthermore, Zinara payment vouchers were not being completed properly and were lacking information such as references, requisition number, supplier’s numbers, appropriation code, date stamp and some were not certified correct before payment.”

The report further stated that some figures for the rehabilitation of the Harare International Airport had been increased without supporting documents.

“Following the adoption of the multi-currency in 2009, the Authority (CAAZ) renegotiated the contract price to $22 068 668. However, I noted that the project’s costs had accumulated to $35 692 870 as at July 24, 2015, that was $13 624 202 above the contract price.

“I was not availed with documentary evidence to show that the State Procurement Board had approved the contract price variation,” Chiri said.

She said that one of the trucks that were purchased for the Victoria Falls Airport rehabilitation after being granted rebates by the tax authority was seen being used at Timsite Mine in Bindura, while two Toyota Hilux cars were allocated to two senior CAAZ employees in Harare under unclear circumstances.

The report further noted that there were also anomalies at the National Oil Infrastructure Company of Zimbabwe.

“Board fees and allowances paid to board members were grossed up to cover up the 20 percent withholding tax on directors’ fees and allowances. However, there was no evidence of approval by the responsible minister to gross up board fees and allowances,” she said.

Critics say the latest report on parastatals, while useful in highlighting public sector rot, was yet another futile exercise that would amount to nothing.

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