ZimStats fails to account for $28m: AG

HARARE - A report by Auditor-General (AG) Mildred Chiri has exposed serious loopholes at the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStat) which failed to account for $28 million used during the 2012 national census — amid concerns over veracity of suppliers’ invoices and suspicious registers of participants who claimed expenses during the exercise.

The damning report described lax management of some of the millions of dollars designated for the census, conducted by ZimStat with support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

“I noted instances of unvouched expenditure in some entities and ZimStat could not support census expenditure amounting to $28 million.

  “I could not satisfy myself of the accuracy, completeness and validity of population census expenditure amounting to $45 480 731 and related accounts payable amounting to $24 080 205 disclosed in the financial statements due to the following.

“Expenditure amounting to $29 739 909 (for field allowances, food, accommodation and training expenses) for the population census participants was not adequately supported. The agency failed to avail adequate evidence such as attendance registers for the 40 438 individuals who had participated in the census. There was no database or schedules with detailed and requisite information of the participants,” said Chiri in her report released last Wednesday.

Chiri’s national report has exposed serious rot at State enterprises and parastatals — re-igniting debate on President Robert Mugabe’s government’s apparent lack of appetite to act on her findings.

On her findings at the ZimStat, the AG unearthed so many irregularities which did not tally with the millions of dollars released for the national census.

“There was no database with requisite information of the participants, indicating details of their age, sex, residential address, occupation, employer and employment number.

“These lists only showed the name of the centre, the name of the participant, national registration number, signature and amount signed for. A population census is an important national exercise and the maintenance of a database of the participants is essential,” Chiri said.

The State agency could also not provide supporting evidence to justify expenditure of $15 million on cars hired by participants of the census.

“Vehicle hire and rental expenditure amounting to $15 740 822 was not adequately supported. Supporting schedules of rental and car hire expenses from the agency’s provincial offices were not availed. Details of the hired vehicles including their makes, registration numbers, mileages and accumulated hiring cost per vehicle were also not availed for my verification,” she added.

In response, the ZimStat management said although they had not availed the registers required by Chiri, they had evidence to support the expenditure saying they will further put systems in place to capture details of participants and come up with a national database.

“Yes, at the time of audit, management did not provide all the attendance registers for participants. However, out of a total of 96 level four training centres, management availed registers for 79 centres.

“In future, the agency will come up with a Census Implementation Plan (CIP) that will contain, among other things, modalities on registers maintenance and standardisation. All names of those seconded to the census were provided by the various government ministries under authority from Public Service Commission,’ said ZimStat.

“Conference and workshops rentals $13 567 072, vehicle hire $ 1 439 503. Total $15 006 576. Conferencing and workshop rental expenses were incurred for training of trainers (level one to three), Inter- Ministerial Technical Census Committee (ITCC) conferencing workshops and the main training of enumerators (level four) (that is, cost for food, accommodation and other required necessary facilities covering the period from January 01 to August 17, 2012).

“Management sub-contracted (hired) the CMED to provide vehicles for the enumeration phase and a total amount of $1,2 million was paid for vehicle hiring services,’ it added.

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