‘AG’s reports inadequate to prosecute’
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