Hands off procurement, ministers warned
Brian Chitemba Investigations Editor
A FORENSIC audit into the purchase of Covid-19 materials and medical supplies has commenced, with Cabinet ministers being warned against interfering with procurement in parastatals under their purview.
Auditors from the Office of the Auditor-General have started the audit, which is expected to open a can of worms.
Auditor-General Mrs. Mildred Chiri told The Sunday Mail on Friday that although the audit was still in its preliminary stages, her team was busy examining documents related to the procurement of medical supplies.
Documents under scrutiny were obtained from various Government departments.
This comes after President Mnangagwa announced that a special forensic investigation would be done to weed out malcontents and impediments to achieving Vision 2030.
The President told the third principals’ executive plenary meeting of the Political Actors Dialogue (Polad) in the capital recently that the Government would investigate and take swift action against corrupt officials.
Said Mrs. Chiri: “The forensic audit has started and we are using our own internal auditors. We are looking at the available documentation to see what was done right or wrong.”
The Auditor-General could not put timelines into the process.
“For now, it’s difficult to tell how long this process will take because new issues may arise from the documents as the investigation goes on. We might have to look at a lot of issues than expected, so we have to work on it first.”
Mrs. Chiri has been hailed for the first-rate work, particularly the thorough annual Auditor-General’s report which has exposed rot, inefficiencies, and incompetence in public institutions.
The procurement of medical supplies has claimed the scalps of many high-profile officials. It has seen the arrest and subsequent sacking of former Health and Child Care Minister Dr. Obadiah Moyo over his role in a murky US$60 million deal with a questionable medical supplier, Drax International.
Dr. Moyo is on $50 000 bail, while a local representative of Drax International, Mr. Delish Nguwaya, was charged on corruption allegations.
A number of managers from the National Pharmaceutical Company (NatPharm) have either been arrested, fired, or suspended as well.
NatPharm employees — Flora Sifeku, Rolland Mlalazi, and Charles Mwaramba — were arrested early this month on allegations of flouting procurement regulations.
The Second Republic has declared war against corruption, which was deeply embedded and institutionalised for many years.
Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) chairperson Justice Loyce Matanda-Moyo has warned Cabinet ministers against involvement in procurement in parastatals under their purview.
She said the Public Entities Corporate Governance Act prohibits ministers from participating in tendering processes.
“Ministers must distance themselves from procurement because once they are involved junior officers will be forced to overlook the right procedures. Everyone must stick to their job,” said the anti-graft boss.
Justice Matanda-Moyo indicated that plans were underway to host seminars to educate senior Government officials, ministers included, on the legal provisions related to procurement.
The ZACC chair said the recently launched National Anti-Corruption Strategy would ensure there are no catch and release games, as law enforcement agents put all hands on deck to fight corruption.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), which works closely with ZACC, also contributed to the anti-corruption document, thus more prosecutors are expected to be assigned to deal with corruption cases.
“We are working together to plug all the loopholes to make sure that once a suspected corruption official is arrested, he cannot walk scot-free. We have enhanced co-operation among various anti-corruption bodies,” said Justice Matanda-Moyo.
As part of efforts to tighten the anti-graft fight, ZACC has established six committees responsible for the implementation of anti-corruption initiatives.
ZACC, Justice Matanda-Moyo said, was also focusing on the prevention of corruption through the empowerment of organisations to detect vice through integrity committees.
A ZACC contact person will be availed to monitor the systems to plug any leeway for corruption.
“Citizens must refuse and resist corruption, they must understand the dangers,” said the ZACC chair.
Problematic areas to be dealt with include bribery and tax evasion which cost the economy US$2 billion annually.
“Tax evasion and smuggling are prejudicing the economy of a lot of money. Some unscrupulous citizens under-declare goods or opt to pay reduced tax after offering bribes to revenue officials,” said Justice Matanda-Moyo.
She recommended that the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) should digitise to improve transparency and efficiency.
“People don’t want to spend a lot of time in queues hence they opt to pay bribes. This calls for improved service delivery at our ports of entry,” Justice Matanda-Moyo said.
Presenting his mid-term budget review statement last week, Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube said Zimra should introduce patrol drones to fight smuggling, which is rampant at porous borders.
Zimra has been increasing surveillance and anti-smuggling activities resulting in the arrest of scores of people while over 30 trucks were impounded in recent months.
Zimbabwe is a viable transit route for countries north of the Zambezi River, including Zambia, Malawi, DRC, Tanzania, and Angola.