Police have powers to act on AG’s report

Source: Police have powers to act on AG’s report | The Herald July 4, 2017

Tendai Mugabe Senior Reporter
police have powers to arrest officials implicated in the Auditor-General’s Office audit reports once they are tabled in Parliament, since there is nothing in the Constitution stopping them from taking such action on the reported criminal activities, law experts have said.

Auditor General Mrs Mildred Chiri has been producing reports implicating Government officials and heads of parastatals, state enterprises and councils in abuse of funds, but concern has been raised that there has been no follow-up on the cases.

In most cases, the corruption unearthed by the audit reports has been so glaring that people expected police to take action immediately and deal with the suspects.

Constitutional law expert Professor Lovemore Madhuku told The Herald yesterday that there was no need for a complainant in such cases.

He said the police should swiftly move in and arrest those implicated in the audit report once it is tabled in Parliament.

But police chief spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said Government protocol mandated Permanent Secretaries to make a report to the police as accounting officers.

The difficulty has been that in some of the cases, the Permanent Secretaries are implicated in the corruption, making it unrealistic to expect them to report to the police, the law experts noted.

Prof Madhuku said: “Those reports do not need to be verified or endorsed by Parliament. Once that report is tabled in Parliament, any organ of the State which has issues with what has been raised can act on it.

“It is a serious misunderstanding that there should be a complainant. The presentation of that report is sufficient notice to everyone, including the law enforcement agency. It is like saying there is a bombing somewhere, there is no need for a complainant in that case and the police are obliged to investigate that.”

Another lawyer who refused to be named said it was surprising that police were not taking action.

“It is surprising that every year these reports are published and nothing is being done,” said the lawyer. “The law is very clear, once such information is availed by an official Government department there is no need to verify it, but to put people to their defence in court.

“Failure to act is tantamount to rendering the office of the AG useless or can be interpreted as lack of will or commitment on the part of Government to deal with corruption.”

Snr Asst Comm Charamba said the responsibility to take the cases further should fall on Permanent Secretaries, who are the accounting officers of ministries.

“They should account for all administrative issues in their ministries,” she said. “If there is such a report, it is their responsibility to approach the police highlighting areas with criminal issues that require police investigation.

“Some of the issues are administrative and can be dealt with without the involvement of the police.”

Snr Asst Comm Charamba said the police needed to study the report before arresting those implicated.

“The same people may end blaming the police for arresting to investigate,” said Snr Asst Comm Charamba.

She said the AG should also avail the police with the reports.

“The same report that was presented to Parliament should also be given to the police,” she said. “Police officers are not prophets. The problem sometimes is that the police are blamed for everything.

“People should come and report and then complain if the police refuse to investigate.”

Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Public Accounts Ms Paurina Mpariwa said after presentation of the AG’s report, they submit a list of recommendations to relevant ministries for implementation.

“We give recommendations to relevant ministries and we expect the responsible Minister to take action,” she said. “We expect the ministers to come back and report on what they are doing to curb the leakages.

“Recently, Minister (Patrick) Chinamasa presented some of the measures that they are already implementing in the Ministry of Finance. Minister (Joseph) Made also said he is now ready with his presentation. If all ministries do that, the better for us. We will be doing a follow up to see if these ministries will be implementing what they have reported starting with the 2016 report.”

Recently, the Auditor General presented her 2016 report that unearthed abuse of public funds in several Government departments and councils.

But fears abound that Mrs Chiri’s efforts will come to naught, as no action is taken to reign in the offenders and ensure they become accountable to their corrupt tendencies.