Following through on AG report

Source: Following through on AG report | The Herald June 30, 2017

Christopher Charamba Features Writer
During the war of liberation cadres in Zanla forces would sing the song Nzira Dzemasoja. It was adopted from chairman Mao’s military doctrine “Three Rules of Disciple and Eight Points of Attention.”

Stand out lyrics in the song are “Bhadharai zvamunotenga nenzira dzakanaka // Mudzorere zvinhu zvose zvamunenge matora” — Pay fairly for everything that you buy // return everything that you take”.

In a nutshell this calls on those who live by this code to be people of integrity, to shun corrupt practices and respect people and their property.

The issue of corruption is one that has captured national discourse time and time again and is seen as a massive hindrance to economic prosperity in Zimbabwe.

On numerous occasions issues relating to corruption have been reported in the media yet the response has been meek at best.

One agency that has been at the forefront of exposing corrupt practices particularly in government institutions and parastatals is the Office of the Auditor General.

Over the years, Auditor-General Mildred Chiri’s office has put out a report which has exposed corrupt practices in Government institutions.

In 2015 the Auditor-General’s audit report of the ministries showed 22 out of the 32 at the time had poor corporate governance, abused funds, flouted procurement procedures and other such corrupt practices.

This figure had actually increased from the previous year, 2014, where 18 ministries were reported in the Auditor-General’s report.

One would think that in 2014 when more than half the ministries were said to have acted unethically the situation would have been corrected, it in fact got worse.

This year is no different.

In the Auditor-General’s report for the financial year ending December 2016 it was revealed that the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) paid Powertel close to $10 million as commission for selling prepaid electricity to wholesalers, something it could have done itself, the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) “cannot locate” a $3,4 million piece of land in Chegutu that it bought using pensioners’ money and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission failed to account for $735 000.

Each time an Audit Report is produced, it comes with recommendations, some which call for investigations into issues of financial irregularities and other practices which may be deemed corrupt.

What is not reported is whether these investigations are ever undertaken or how they turn out if they are.

Constitutional law expert Sharon Hofisi said there is an issue of vertical accountability at play and if the Auditor General’s report recommendations point to investigations then it the police with the assistance of ZACC which should investigate.

“ZACC is a watchdog on corruption and the auditor general is important in the good governance.

“ZACC however does not have arresting powers and so it cannot work alone. Once the Auditor General has unearthed issues then ZACC can work with the police who have investigative powers enshrined in the constitution S219.

“Under the same Section the police must exercise its functions in co-operations with anybody that is established by law for the purpose of detecting, investigating or preventing particular classes of offences such as ZACC,” he said.

According to Mr Hofisi, the audit report alone is not enough to bring charges against an individual or an institution and that further investigations need to be done.

“When looking at these issues they fall under the aspect of good governance which is one of the founding principles of the constitution in Section 3.

“There are four things to look at, accountability being the first, which the Auditor General’s report serves to do.

“The next is transparency, which publishing the report and making it accessible does.

“The third thing is responsiveness where ZACC and the police fall in terms of investigating and finally justice where should there be sufficient evidence, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) then prosecutes,” he said.

Mr Hofisi added that it was important though for the Auditor-General’s report to be clear on the incidents of corruption as if it is vague it may not warrant investigation.

“If the report offers recommendations then it must be clear as to what type of corruption it is for those who are investigating to have a clue on what to look for.

“They can’t just say that there was a mismanagement of funds without explanations.

“Once investigations are done by the police and the decision to prosecute has been made, the audit report will then be used as part of documentary evidence in court which buttresses the fact that public funds were abused,” he said.

Acting Prosecutor-General Advocate Ray Goba echoed Mr Hofisi’s sentiments by stating that his office can only react to issues of corruption once investigations have been done by the police and referred to them.

“We do not follow up on issues that are in the audit report. That is left to the police and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission.

“Once they have done their investigations and have suitable evidence they then bring it to us and we decide whether there is enough to take prosecutorial action. It is not our function to investigate matters,” he said.

According to Advocate Goba, the Constitution clearly spells out the roles and functions of the different agencies including the NPA and the office of the Prosecutor-General.

“Prosecution is based on evidence and as the NPA we have our duties and functions different from other arms. We cannot stray into other people’s departments. Matters are brought to us; we do not go looking for them.

“If there is a crime that has been committed, someone should report these matters to the police who have the powers to investigate these matters.

“We can’t just say after reading about things in the newspapers that we are going to prosecute, there needs to be a case that has been reported and the Commissioner General of the police who has the powers to do so should investigate.

“A criminal case starts with a complaint. If someone breaks into your house and you do not report it to the police, then no case can be opened.

“The police are duty bound to investigate any cases that are brought forward to them and if they find evidence of a crime they then refer these to the National Prosecuting Authority,” he said.

Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said the police will investigate matters that appear in a report once there is complainant.

“If a report is produced, what usually happens is there is a complainant who reports to the police and says ‘we feel there is a crime that has been committed that needs to be investigated.

“Once a complaint has been filed then we can investigate further,” she said.

Snr Asst Com Charamba added that anyone has the prerogative to lodge a complaint if they believe that there is a criminal case that warrants investigation.

“If the case happens to be in a state institution or ministry then a permanent secretary for example can approach us and lodge a complaint against a particular ministry or institution and then investigations will begin.

Section 255 of the Constitution spells out the functions of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission which include, investigate and expose cases of corruption in the public and private sectors; combat corruption, theft, misappropriation, abuse of power and other improper conduct in the public and private sectors; and direct the Commissioner-General of Police to investigate cases of suspected corruption and to report to the Commission on the results of any such investigation.

The Constitution, the supreme law of Zimbabwe explicitly points out bodies that are responsible for investigating corruption, those with arresting powers and those with prosecutorial powers.

What seems to be lacking is the political will to actually follow through on the recommendations of the Auditor-General’s report and lodge the relevant complaints with the police so investigations can begin.

Those bestowed with such a responsibility should perhaps reflect on the words of the Nzira Dzemasoja, an important song in the liberation struggle of Zimbabwe and live up to the integrity that the code asks for.