Pauline Hurungudo 17 November 2018
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.