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2008 audit report tabled in parliament
Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust
September 30, 2011
The 2008 Annual
Audited Report has now been tabled in the House of Assembly, more
than two-and-a-half years after the end of the fiscal year. This
clearly shows that the Comptroller and Auditor General’s Office
(C&AG) is still unable to conduct an audit of national accounts
and submit reports to Parliament
on time. This problem of delayed audited reports continues to dog
Zimbabwe’s public finance management system despite the promulgation
of laws intended to put an end to the problem.
Section 35 (12) of the Public Finance Management Act says the Minister
of Finance shall submit to the House of Assembly audited consolidated
annual financial statements within 180 days (six months) of the
end of the financial year. This means the audited report for 2010
should have been submitted to the House by 30th June 2011. Even
before we talk about audited reports, the law requires every accounting
officer of a ministry to submit to the respective parliamentary
committee the unaudited financial statements of his or her ministry
within 90 days of the end of the financial year. The Minister of
Finance will then submit to the House of Assembly the unaudited
consolidated annual financial statements within 90 days of the end
of the fiscal year. However, not a single parliamentary committee
has received these unaudited reports, nine months after the end
of the 2010 fiscal year. This is a blatant violation of Zimbabwe’s
Apart from the problem of delayed reports, the 2008 Audit Report
itself makes very sad reading. A significant number of financial
statements from ministries, government entities and statutory funds
were not audited by the C&AG due to either late submission,
or non-submission of these reports. Late submission and non-submission
of reports for audit is due to reasons such as lack of skills and
technical capacity in the ministries, inadequate supervision, poor
work ethics and attempts to hide cases of occupational fraud and
abuse, waste and incompetence. Whatever the reason, the end result
is poor or complete lack of accountability and transparency to Parliament
and the public by those who are tasked to account. This is a serious
offence given that these funds are funded from taxpayers’
What is most worrying is the number of years that these funds have
been failing to account with no sanction imposed on the culprits.
It is therefore important that the public finance management system
and audit process do not allow such trends of late submission and/or
non-submission of reports for audit to go unsanctioned. Heavy penalties
must be legislated and applied on all who are supposed to account
but fail to do so.
One other issue to point is that the C&AG could not give an
opinion on the 2008 audited national accounts because of the deterioration
in the public finance management system caused by the hyper-inflationary
environment that reduced the Zimbabwe dollar to a worthless currency.
But given the chaos that characterized the management of public
resources in 2008, one can always infer that most of the accounts
would still have been qualified by the Auditor General.
The question is what can the C&AG do when public funds have
not been properly managed? The C&AG’s powers of surcharge
are very limited and only confined to recovery of monies where there
have been instances of mismanagement of public resources. The C&AG
has no power to sanction those who fail to keep proper books of
accounts, fail to produce financial statements or fail to meet reporting
deadlines. This leaves the C&AG with virtually no powers to
monitor and enforce compliance and sanction non-compliance. Limited
powers by the C&AG therefore mainly explain the existing low
levels of accountability in the public sector.
The C&AG reported that apart from the audit of records at head
offices of ministries and departments, they could not carry out
audits of outside stations because of resource constraints. The
same situation prevailed during the 2007 audit. This has far reaching
implications from an audit point of view given that generally outside
stations are more risky because of the remote central control and
their belief that they will not be audited. This creates an environment
conducive to waste, occupational fraud and abuse and corruption.
The issue of resource constrains, which includes human resources,
requires urgent attention. The C&AG’s office must endeavor
to recruit and retain qualified and experienced staff. The Public
Accounts Committee (PAC) and the Audit Office Commission should
ensure this important issue is urgently addressed.
Now that the 2008 Audit Report has been tabled in Parliament, we
expect the PAC to thoroughly scrutinize it and report to the House
its findings and recommendations. What is critically important however
is for the PAC to follow through on recommendations made. For the
C&AG to repeat the same findings and recommendations in subsequent
audits shows a continued breakdown of the public finance management
system and failure by Parliament to discharge its oversight functions
properly. And the PAC should insist on full compliance with the
Public Finance Management Act and Audit Office Act in terms of when
reports should be submitted to Parliament.
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