AUDITOR-GENERAL Mildred Chiri is one of Zimbabwe’s most exceptional civil servants and this is shown by the high standard of her output.
Every year, her office audits government departments and state-owned institutions and other public bodies. And every year, she unearths massive corruption — but nothing ever happens to the perpetrators.
Zimbabwe commemorates Independence Day on Monday, but 42 years after the birth of the republic, the public purse has become an integral component of the proverbial “gravy train” — the sum total of dodgy tenders and outright theft constituting the grubby feeding trough that keeps Harare’s fat cats awash with ill-gotten money.
As a result, the looting continues unabated and is intensifying on the eve of a major election as the criminals in suits jostle for what could possibly be a last supper. Corruption, bad governance and incompetence are at the heart of this country’s multi-faceted decay.
The failure and refusal to bring corrupt public officials to justice is stoking impunity as the criminals feel untouchable. Accountability and transparency — which are cardinal principles of public finance management as enunciated in the constitution — are not taken seriously in public affairs, which explains why Zimbabwe has regressed from a relatively promising country alive with possibilities at Independence in 1980 to yet another hopeless kleptocracy wallowing in poverty and mediocrity.
In the latest audit reports, which The NewsHawks has extensively reported on, the Auditor-General lifts the lid on the industrial-scale malfeasance that has taken root in the government. There are dodgy payments running into hundreds of millions of dollars.
Taxpayer money is going down the drain and it has become increasingly clear, over the decades, that the Zanu PF government lacks the political will to decisively tackle the rot. Ministries are running riot, clocking up huge amounts of unauthorised excess expenditure.
Murky payments, without supporting documentation and in many instances processed without the knowledge of line ministries, are a vast crime scene that now demands a forensic investigation and prosecution in the national interest. When will the law take its course without fear or favour and in line with the constitution?
Large amounts on the wage bill have not been reconciled, meaning there are ghost workers siphoning public funds. The looting has gone on for decades. Public procurement law is flouted left, right and centre. In the main, there is nothing new in what the valiant Chiri is revealing.
Her annual reports are beginning to sound like a scratched vinyl. Bemused Zimbabweans have witnessed in the last couple of years as the government waxes lyrical about “performance management contracts” for permanent secretaries — who are, by law, the chief administrators and accounting officers of ministries.
But how on earth can they glibly talk of performance management in an environment characterised by a culture of mediocrity, impudence and naked criminality?
The Zimbabwean government’s entire governance ethos is in tatters. No surprises there; it mirrors the suffocating malaise which has choked the life out of public finance management, with no repercussions for the culprits. Zimbabwe is now a fully-fledged authoritarian kleptocracy. Numbers do not lie.