‘AG’s re­ports in­ad­e­quate to pros­e­cute’

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Business - Tawanda Musarurwa

THE Au­di­tor-Gen­eral’s au­dit re­ports do not pro­vide suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to sus­tain pros­e­cu­tion of pub­lic of­fi­cials fin­gered in cor­rup­tion, mis­man­age­ment of pub­lic funds and cor­po­rate gov­er­nance im­pro­pri­ety, an ex­pert has said.

Sev­eral re­ports by the AG Ms Mil­dred Chiri over the last few years have re­vealed that Gov­ern­ment may have been prej­u­diced of hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in a num­ber of pub­lic en­ti­ties.

These in­clude Zim­babwe Na­tional Roads Ad­min­is­tra­tion, Zim­babwe Min­ing De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion and En­vi­ron­men­tal Man­age­ment Agency, which vi­o­lated good gov­er­nance prac­tices and stand­ing rules.

But de­spite such rev­e­la­tions, no in­di­vid­u­als have been pros­e­cuted over the cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to au­dit and foren­sics ex­pert Dr Reynolds Muza — a part­ner with re­gional pub­lic au­dit­ing fi rm Ralph Bom­ment — this is be­cause the AG’s re­port is sim­ply an ex­ter­nal (or per­for­mance) au­dit.

“The rea­son why most of these peo­ple you read about in the news­pa­pers are not pros­e­cuted is be­cause the news­men would have re­lied on an ex­ter­nal au­dit re­port like the AG’s re­ports. These (re­ports) do not con­tain com­pe­tent ev­i­dence that stands the test in a com­pe­tent court (of law),” he said.

Dr Muza said the AG’s re­ports should be used as a ba­sis for a foren­sic au­dit to be in­sti­tuted.

Foren­sic ac­count­ing is ba­si­cally the use of ac­count­ing skills to in­ves­ti­gate fraud or em­bez­zle­ment and to an­a­lyse fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion for use in le­gal pro­ceed­ings.

“So, that ex­ter­nal au­dit re­port should be used as a ba­sis for call­ing for a foren­sic au­dit. It is only a foren­sic au­dit that can stand in a court of law and say these are the facts. An ex­ter­nal au­dit re­port is based on sub­jec­tive in­for­ma­tion, or an ex­ter­nal au­di­tor’s pro­fes­sional judg­ment, and opin­ions are not en­ter­tained in a court of law. A court of law en­ter­tains facts.

“When we talk about a foren­sic ac­coun­tant we are talk­ing about some­one who gath­ers ev­i­dence that can stand in a court of law. There should be a distinc­tion be­tween facts and opin­ions,” he said.

He was speak­ing at a ca­pac­ity build­ing work­shop for civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions and me­dia prac­ti­tion­ers on pub­lic fi­nance re­port­ing and ac­count­abil­ity in lo­cal au­thor­i­ties in Bu­l­awayo.

Dr Muza’s com­ments come in the con­text of con­cerns by the gen­eral pub­lic that the AG’s re­ports were be­ing ig­nored notwith­stand­ing the fact that this au­dit func­tion is pro­vided for in the con­sti­tu­tion.

Clerk of Par­lia­ment Mr Kennedy Chokuda con­curred with the sen­ti­ments but said the high cost of a foren­sic au­dit and scarcity of foren­sic ac­coun­tants in the coun­try had contributed to the lack of pros­e­cu­tions.

“When the AG writes a re­port, she is not al­leg­ing that any­one has stolen money, but where they can prove dur­ing their au­dit that there is money that was stolen, they have to men­tion it.

“A foren­sic au­dit is ex­pen­sive and I also un­der­stand that there are very few com­pa­nies that can carry out foren­sic au­dits in this coun­try,“he said. A foren­sic au­dit can cost up­wards of $300 000.

Ja­panese Am­bas­sador to Zim­babwe Yoshi­nobu Hi­raishi and Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary for Eco­nomic Plan­ning and In­vest­ment Pro­mo­tion Dr De­sire Sibanda fol­low pro­ceed­ings dur­ing a stake­hold­ers prepara­tory work­shop on de­vel­op­ment and op­er­a­tional­i­sa­tion of Spe­cial Eco­nomic Zones at a Bu­l­awayo ho­tel on Tues­day

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