Every year the Auditor-General Midred Chiri produces reports exposing corruption in government departments, local authorities and parastatals but none of them has led to the prosecution of people implicated in the pilferage, neither has there been any efforts to recover the lost revenue.
Chiri’s office last week produced three reports and she lived up to her reputation of shining light into the darkest government corridors as she exposed brazen corruption involving tenders and ghost workers.
Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa presented the reports covering State enterprises and parastatals (SEPs) and local authorities as well as audits of fund accounts run by ministries.
The reports revealed losses of several millions of dollars through lack of good corporate governance, failure to repay loans resulting in accrual of interest, gross financial mismanagement, fraudulent activities and other financial misdeeds.
In an interview with The Standard last week, Chiri said she remained committed to exposing graft and would not be intimidated by anyone.
“The AG is not scared to expose corruption through the Auditor-General’s reports because she will be executing her mandate as provided for in the constitution,” she told The Standard last Friday.
“As you may be aware, the AG’s reports incorporate management comments provided by the board or accounting officers of ministries, SEPs, or Local Government, and this gives a balanced view.”
She said as a follow-up on her reports, boards and accounting officers of ministries, Local Government and SEPs would be summoned by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Accounts (PAC) to provide more information and updates on steps to be taken to address issues raised during audits.
“The cases of financial indiscipline are dealt with in line with the provisions of the Public Financial Management Act (Chapter 22:19),” she said.
The Public Financial Management Act provides for appointment of the Accountant General and staff to provide for the regulation and control of public entities, administration and repayment of loans by the State, and matters pertaining to fiscal misconduct of public officials, among others.
“The Auditor-General is mandated to produce an annual report covering the whole of the public sector, which includes central government, parastatals and SEPs, and local authorities,” she said as she explained her job.
“The report may be in three volumes specific to each sub-sector but it is considered as one report.
“Since my appointment, I have been producing the annual reports. In addition to these, I have produced 15 Value For Money reports that were all tabled in Parliament,” she added.
Chiri said her motivation to expose corruption and irregularities was guided by international auditing standards.
The AG welcomed Chinamasa’s recent announcement that a Bill to deal with issues of corporate governance would be brought before Parliament.
“I believe that to some extent, as an addition to the current controls, the Bill, if crafted into law, will enhance accountability,” Chiri said.
In some countries, the PAC sits with members of the Anti-Corruption Commission and police so that they immediately arrest corrupt government officials implicated in the scams, or get further information that might assist them in investigating corruption.
Chiri said she valued the work of the PAC in interrogating audit reports.
“Communication already exists between PAC, the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc),” she said.
“The law can always take its course even without the presence of the ZRP in the PAC meetings interrogating audit reports.”
Despite exposing a lot of fraudulent activities at government institutions and local authorities, Chiri said her office was not spared from challenges facing government institutions such as lack of resources.
“I feel that the powers of the AG’s Office as given by the Constitution are adequate as there are other arms of government to collaborate with,” she said.
According to Chiri, there has been an improvement in the implementation of some of the recommendations she makes in her reports regarding accountability.
Chiri was appointed Comptroller and Auditor General on February 24 2004 before the post was changed to Auditor-General through the new Constitution.
She holds a Bachelor of Accounting degree from the University of Zimbabwe and is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Secretaries (FCIS) as member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (Acca), and the Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
She is also a registered public accountant (RPACC) and currently she is studying for a Masters in Business Administration.
Her stint in the government audit department began in 1983 when she joined the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General as an audit assistant, and rose through the ranks to the position of Comptroller and Auditor General (now Auditor-General).
Some of her achievements include managing to clear a backlog of the annual Comptroller and Auditor General’s reports which had lagged behind since the year 2000.
She is also acclaimed for reformatting the annual reports to include key audit findings which are then presented in a narrative form in response to stakeholders’ concerns that the audit reports needed to be simpler and easier to understand, as opposed to being too technical.
Among her plans to improve the office’s output, Chiri wants to expand the Value for Money and Information Technology units, as well as introduce Forensic and Procurement Audit units, and professionalising her office and staff.
Among the accolades she won in her career is the Chartered Secretary of the year award for 2010 from the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (ICSA) for promoting transparency and accountability in the Auditor-General’s office. In 2016 she received an award from the Women’s Institute of Leadership called the Women’s Top Leadership Excellence Award for the Government Sector.
She is a board member of the Intosai Development Initiative — a Norway-based international organisation that capacitates supreme audit institutions (Auditor-General’s offices) through training. Standard