Assets, public funds unaccounted for in post-coup ministry mergers

HARARE - The merger or demerger of government ministries after recent changes of government has made it difficult to account for assets and public funds, Auditor General Mildred Chiri has said.

Merging and de-merging of some line ministries was done to remove functional duplications as well as contain unnecessary expenditures, thus enhancing efficiency in the delivery of service. Notable changes happened during the government transition in November 2017 after President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government came into power.

Some line ministries such as Environment, Water and Climate; Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement and Tourism and Hospitality Industry were reviewed to avoid duplication and foster efficiency. Respectively, the resultant ministries, ministry of Environment Tourism and Hospitality Industry and ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement were merged to produce new line ministries.

In a report presented to Parliament, Chiri noted that the ministry transitions had no guidelines, which in turn jeopardised validation and accounting of government assets and public funds.

“I noted that the ministry (Finance and Economic Development) does not have documented guidelines or procedures to be followed when a ministry is wound up, demerged or merged to ensure proper accountability for assets and liabilities. If there are no accounting guidelines on demerger or merger of ministries assets may not be properly accounted for and liabilities may be difficult to substantiate or validate. Unsupported payments and delayed settlement of bills may result in duplicate and fraudulent payments,” Chiri said.

This comes after assets from a demerged ministry were transferred to Treasury and debts amounting to $582 346 were paid with no supporting invoices. Thus, public funds and assets continue to be compromised due to lack of comprehensive guidelines that govern and inform the transition.

Chiri also said that the Register of Assets managed by Public Finance Management System (PFMS) was also not available at the time that the audit was taking place. The PFMS is expected to make annual procedural displays of the government assets, which it failed to do, causing the scope of the audit to be limited.

Notably, there are many government assets, such as cars, that are either lying dormant or unaccounted for.

In its response, Treasury said: “The Treasury issues out circulars and letters when merging and demerging take place. “These communications will be giving guidance on the handing over arrangements to be followed whenever such exercises and changes take place.”

Chiri, however, asserted that the ministry has no documented guidelines for proper accountability for liabilities and assets, leading to other assets and funds being untraceable.

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.