Saturday, 16 July 2016

MISSING $15 BILLION : AUDIT BEGINS

THE Auditor-General’s Office has commissioned a top auditing firm to investigate alleged looting of proceeds from diamond mining operations in Marange, with the results of the probe expected by September.

Auditor-General Ms Mildred Chiri told The Sunday Mail that the firm had started work on a two-month time line to conclude the probe.

The unnamed chartered accountancy firm won the right to conduct the audit following a month-long bidding process. Ms Chiri said the company’s identity would remain confidential to avoid jeopardising investigations.

Ms Chiri said bidding ended on June 29, and after the adjudication process was competed, the winning bidder was informed of its terms of reference.

“We have communicated to the auditor of the high expectations that we anticipate from the work that they have been tasked to do. The issue of the alleged diamond looting has attracted much public interest so we are expecting that they will bend their backs to give us the results of what transpired.

“As an auditing firm, they also have an undertaking to conduct their work diligently as part of their mandate, so we are hopeful that they will give us results,” she said.

Ms Chiri said her office had notified the Mines and Mining Development Ministry of the “full co-operation” expected from Government departments during the audit.

“We are in constant communication with the Ministry of Mines and we will be working together throughout the process. They have already pledged their full cooperation during the process, as some of the issues fall under their purview,” she said.

The Sunday Mail understands that the terms of reference stipulate that the auditors should also look into how diamond mining companies managed their finances, receipts of payments and receipts from all sales.

Mines Minister Walter Chidhakwa and Secretary for Mines Professor Francis Gudyanga could not be reached for comment last week.

However, Prof Gudyanga last month told this newspaper that the ministry would lend its full support to the probe.

In an interview with ZBC-TV on the occasion of his 92nd birthday, President Mugabe revealed that the country could have lost billions in suspicious dealings in the diamond mining sector.

This prompted the Mines Ministry to alert the Auditor-General’s Office to the matter, resulting in the current audit.

In May, a British legislator said his country was a possible haven for diamond proceeds from Marange, telling the house of lords that funds from illicit dealings could be stashed in London banks.

Contributing to a debate on money laundering, Lord Chidgey described London as a “destination of choice” for proceeds from Zimbabwe’s diamonds fields.

Following this, Prof Gudyanga said the probe into the illegal diamond dealings could be extended beyond Zimbabwe’s borders.

Recently, National Prosecution Authority national director of prosecutions Mrs Florence Ziyambi wrote to six countries where millions of dollars realised from diamond mining activities in Zimbabwe were allegedly externalised by Jinan Private Ltd, seeking mutual assistance.

It is believed cash was irregularly transferred to banks in the United Arab Emirates, China, Zambia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone and the DRC.

Early in 2016, the Mines Ministry ordered all diamond mining companies in Marange — Anjin, Jinan, Mbada Diamonds, DMC, Kusena and Gye Nyame — to cease operations, leading to the State’s takeover under the Zimbabwe Diamond Consolidated Company. sunday mail

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