THE ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare has failed to account for thousands of litres of fuel donated to the government to alleviate the effects of drought and other natural hazards under the National Drought Fund, the latest Auditor-General’s report has revealed.
The fund was established for the purpose of counteracting drought effects that include food insecurity. Zimbabwe has been affected by various natural disasters since 2018, with one of the most violent ones being Cyclone Idai, which claimed the lives of at least 1 593 people, affecting more than three million others.
These have fuelled food insecurity, adding to the effects of the 2019-2020 drought. Findings by Auditor-General Mildred Chiri (pictured have revealed the possible misuse of distributed fuel in drought relief programmes, thereby raising serious questions on accountability.
“There was no record in the fuel register of how 9 285 litres of diesel coupons and 1 710 litres of petrol coupons worth $1 448 390 were utilised, although the coupons were recorded as received. “I therefore could not validate whether they were used for the purposes of the Fund. This was contrary to Section 104 (1) of the Public Finance Management (Treasury Instructions) 2019 which requires maintenance of fuel coupons records,” Chiri said.
The ministry has not been keeping a proper record book, thereby undermining accountability around the usage and management of fuel coupons. The fuel procured for the drought fund was issued to districts in line with issued vouchers.
However, the Auditor-General showed that only 1 760 litres of fuel had been issued, leaving a balance of 7 525 litres unaccounted for. Further revelations by Chiri revealed that the ministry has borrowed from the drought fund without the authorisation of Treasury as required by regulations.
“The Fund made an advance of $992 482 to the parent Ministry during the period under review without obtaining authority from Treasury as required by regulations. This amount increased the total owing to $1 117 108 from the $128 260 brought forward from the 2019 financial year.
“However, at the time of concluding my audit on January 6, 2022, the Ministry had reimbursed $480 371. The Fund may fail to achieve its obligations if funds are diverted to meet expenses on behalf of the Ministry. “The Fund should ensure that funds are utilised for the intended purposes as provided for by its constitution and the balance should be fully recovered. In future the Ministry will desist from borrowing from the Fund,” she said.
Chiri said the fund drought fund may fail to fulfil its obligations should it continue being diverted to meet the expenses of the ministry.
“The Fund should ensure that funds are utilised for the intended purposes as provided for by its constitution and the balance should be fully recovered,” she said.
Projections by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FewsNet), a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food security, show a gloomy future on food security. Geopolitical tensions have also disrupted food supply chains, which may also spell danger for Zimbabwe.
The murky dealings under the National Drought Fund are likely to plunge the country into heightened food insecurity.