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NATIONAL ASSEMBLY HANSARD 17 MARCH 2022 VOL 48 NO 34
PARLIAMENT OF ZIMBABWE
Thursday, 17th March, 2022
The National Assembly met at a Quarter-past Two O’clock p.m.
(THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER in the Chair)
(v)HON. WATSON: Good afternoon Madam Speaker and thank you for acknowledging me for a point of national importance. The point I want to raise is to do with the artisanal mining that has been allowed to take place in river catchment areas. This is particularly affecting Bulawayo again. Bulawayo’s water position is always precarious and will be until the completion of the Gwayi/Shangani Dam and main supplier dams. Upper Ncema and Umzingwani Dams received minimal influence. The rainy season was not very good and there was very little rain, particularly in Umzingwane Dam which is now going to be decommissioned despite being one of Bulawayo’s key supplier dams. What I would like to hear at some point from the ministries concerned, Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Fisheries and Water Development, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Environment is what they are going to do about the artisanal mining in these areas, particularly in order to secure water sources for Zimbabwe? I thank you.
THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Ministry of Environment is the one in charge of the environment being degraded by the artisanal miners. I think you will have to separate the issues here.
HON. WATSON: Thank you Madam Speaker but on a point of direction, it is also incumbent on the ZRP and the Ministry of Home Affairs to ensure that once the Ministry of Environment has said this is the problem, it should be resolved. It is also incumbent on the Ministry of Lands and Water to secure water sources and make sure that those to be provided with water from these sources are provided.
THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: That is why I am saying I think you should separate the issues because the Ministry of Water is responsible for giving clean water and the Ministry of Environment is responsible for maintaining the environment while the Ministry of Home Affairs is responsible for enforcing the laws that will protect land degradation.
HON. WATSON: Thank you Madam Speaker I stand guided. Does it then mean I must do it again on another day for each Ministry or will each Ministry take note of the problem?
THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: There is a petition which was received by Parliament which is asking Parliament to see to it that environment is being protected, so I think on that debate, that is when you can bring up your issues.
HON. T. MLISWA: Madam Speaker, I rise to bring an issue of concern, where Ministers who are tasked to bring Ministerial Statements do not bring them. Yesterday, I applauded the Minister of Finance that when asked to bring a Ministerial Statement, he always does that.
However, we have got outstanding Ministerial Statement from the Ministry of Local Government, Public works and National Housing on the provincial councillors who are being paid while Members of Parliament who are part of it are not being paid. Madam Speaker Maam, you actually ordered for that to come through.
The second one is on the Pomona Energy Agreement which last week again you said the Hon. Minister must bring a Ministerial Statement. May I implore your good office to also encourage all Ministers when they travel out of this country using tax payers’ money to the Dubai Expo for example, to come and give Ministerial Statements on what it was because that is tax payers’ money. We must know exactly what the trip was about because we must account for that because it is this very same House that puts a Vote for them to get that money.
The Minister of Agriculture went there; we need to know what were the achievements, challenges and what business opportunities came through. Most of the times they are absent travelling but we never get any feedback from them. They can report to Cabinet but this Parliament’s role is oversight, we must exercise our oversight. I think it is quite in order that we get reports from them pertaining to their international trips on business because it is the Government business that we must know how well it is going.
The Dubai Expo, the President went there, which is excellent - even the Minister of Environment is bringing the report from Cop 26 and the President was there, he is bringing it again. I know that because I think he was waiting for the Portfolio Committee to submit its report. Every Minister must do that - that will be a good practice at the end of the day.
THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon. Mliswa, you are saying every Minister who travelled out of the country must bring a Ministerial Statement?
HON. T. MLISWA: Ministers leave this country on Government business for trade, for example. It is also important for this Parliament to know how well the business went because it is tax payers’ money. How do we account for the growth when we do not have business coming through? We must then see if these trips are worth it or not when supporting the budget. If there is nothing coming from these trips and we are busy allowing money to go out, what is the point? So, the Dubai Expo for example is a well known. They went there to do business, so what business connections did they come up with which boost the country’s economy?
I did not say every trip but especially the Dubai Expo is a business trip which helps the country’s trade and economy. So each Minister who went there, how did it help the country?
THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon. Mliswa, I think on Ministerial Statements, the Members of Parliament can ask Hon. Ministers to bring them to this House regarding issues that they want to know, especially when they are policy issues.
On the reports on business where Executive would have travelled outside the country, they will report to the Committee when they give the Portfolio Committee their quarterly budget reports.
I am also being told that Portfolio Committee on Agriculture had already invited the Minister to report on the issues regarding the Dubai Expo.
HON. T. MLISWA: With regards to the one that I have spoken about Hon. Chombo, if you go through the Hansard, you already gave her the directive to bring them here. If I go through the Hansard, I can clearly pick it up. It is not that I am asking now when she is not here, that was asked of her and Madam Speaker, you ruled that she must bring it here. The Pomona Energy one which was done and the Ministerial Statement on why provincial councillors, some of them are paid and some are not paid.
We also did not get the Ministerial Statement on the state of agriculture. Members of Parliament are going out to the people, what will they say, yet the Hon. Speaker had ruled that there must be a Ministerial Statement. Therefore, it is my appeal for you to remind them that they must bring these statements.
THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: I think we can always remind the Hon. Ministers to bring Ministerial Statements.
On the issue about Hon. Chombo, were you saying that the Hon. Minister promised to bring the Ministerial Statement and she failed to honour the promise, yes Madam Speaker, it was you who ruled, I can go to the Hansard and it is now three weeks, she has not brought the statement. The Members requested for a Ministerial Statement, you then said she must bring it, she said yes I will bring it and she has not brought the two reports. Without specifically talking about them, there are there in the Hansard. So she must respect this House by bringing those reports, it is three weeks and now we are closing and things are overtaken by events and it becomes a useless Ministerial Statement when it is overtaken by events. That is all I was saying that can Ministers make sure that when there is a ruling for Ministerial Statements, it must be made. Just like Hon. Minister Prof. Ncube did, the Speaker ruled on a Ministerial Statement on the state of stabilising the economy when the fuel prices went up; he was here to do it but others do not do it. Why not when a ruling has been made?
THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: I hear you Hon. Mliswa, you are raising a very valid point. I think we must always remind them to bring the Ministerial Statements and we can also do follow ups on the Ministerial Statements. I am sure the Secretariat has also taken note of that, that there is need for follow-ups so that Ministers give Ministerial Statements if they promised to do that.
(v)HON. NDUNA: Thank you Madam Speaker, my point of national importance borders on the issue of home ownerships or houses that are paid for hire purchases or in local authorities. If it pleases you Madam Speaker, I ask that the Minister of Local Government comes to this House and brings a catalogue or an inventory of local authorities, for homes owned by local authorities. I say this because the issue that was raised by His Excellency for people to get title deeds has opened a Pandora box.
Madam Speaker, it would seem that in the urban authorities, the management and the councillors have amassed those properties to be their own, unknown to the unsuspecting innocent citizens of those local authorities. If it pleases you Madam Speaker Ma’am, can we have a catalogue or an inventory and the names of the people that are registered with the local authority to own those properties before the title deeds are issued, otherwise they are enriching the management and the councillors in local authorities in the Opposition led councils. Thank you.
THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: On that one, I will advise you to write a question requesting the Hon. Minister to bring the catalogue to this House of all what you are saying because the Minister will need to do some investigations. If you put it in writing, the technocrats at the Ministry will do some investigations and the Minister will bring it to the House. Thank you.
(v)HON. CHIDAKWA: I want to talk about the issue of school going children on the issue of CALA because they are being marked at schools and some teachers are writing these CALA examinations for school children. What is the position in protecting children from being exposed to such corrupt activities of teachers writing on behalf of children?
THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon. Chidakwa, if you can put that question in writing so that the Minister can reply.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
HON. TOGAREPI: I move that the rest of the Orders of the Day be stood over until Order of the Day No. 24 has been disposed of.
HON. TEKESHE: I second.
Motion put and agreed to.
UNETHICAL PRACTICES BY FORCES OF IMPERIALISM
Twenty-Fourth Order read: Adjourned debate on motion on reparations of colonial injustices perpetrated on Zimbabwe.
Question again proposed.
HON. TOGAREPI: Thank you Madam Speaker. I would like to thank the Members of this House who debated on this motion where we are demanding reparations from the British who colonised our country and had our resources reaped. I would like to thank the Hon. Members for the unity they showed in this debate and their unequivocal demand for reparation. We debated across the political divide strongly in support of Zimbabwe to be compensated by our former colonial masters. Madam Speaker, I would like to pray that our authorities, now that we have debated and represented our people throughout the country, initiate the demands for reparation from Britain. The British Ambassador, if that is the route, The British Prime Minister or the Queen if that is the route must be told that the people of Zimbabwe would like them to pay for the evil they perpetrated on our people. I therefore move for the adoption of the motion.
Motion that this House:
MINDFUL that at the attainment of Zimbabwe`s independence in 1980, the Government of the First Republic extended an olive branch of peace as an endeavour to show its unwavering commitment to reconciliation with the erstwhile enemies as a way of fostering peace, tranquillity and lasting unity;
DISTURBED that the imperialists and their surrogates deliberately sought to undermine such noble gestures by Government and resorted to diabolic strategies at the instigation of their paymasters and embarked on a smear campaign meant to vilify all noble efforts to achieve everlasting peace for the First Republic and its generations to come;
COGNISANT that the same forces of imperialism supported by their kith and kin have always been at the forefront of the under develop campaign of our motherland and have shamelessly perpetrated the most heinous crimes ever on the black majority since the inception of colonialism;
CONDEMNING IN THE STRONGEST OF TERMS the unethical practice by our former colonizers who de-cultured our people and portrayed our land as that of uncivilized and poverty stricken tribesmen all in the quest to entrench their hegemony and to grab the land for their personal aggrandisement, with no form of reparation to the dispossessed black majority, the rightful owners of the land;
NOTING WITH DISDAIN that more than four decades after the attainment of our independence there are some die hard imperialists who still suffer from nostalgia and dream of repossessing our land, our heritage, through spurious and unfounded arguments that they deserve reparation from our Government for the land that was rightfully repossessed and handed over to its owners, the people of Zimbabwe,
NOW, THEREFORE, in view of the foregoing,
- Calls upon our citizens to stand firm in solidarity and thwart any attempts by forces of imperialism to even raise in any for issues to do with any form of compensation to such misguided malcontents;
- Demand restitution from the countries that caused untold sufferings to the Black majority and unduly benefitted from the economic resources of our land;
- Demand reparation for each of the years that the country laboured under the bondage of colonialism; and
Strongly condemn the imposition of sanctions on Zimbabwe for repossessing its land from imperialists, put and agreed to.
RESTORATION OF THE MOTION ON THE RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES ON THE ORDER PAPER
HON. JOSIAH SITHOLE: Madam Speaker Ma’am, I move that the debate on the motion on the right of persons with disabilities which was superseded by the end of the Third Session of the Ninth Parliament be restored on the Order Paper in terms of the Standing Order No. 77 Thank you Hon. Speaker Ma’am.
HON. MPARIWA: I second.
Motion put and agreed to.
REPORT OF THE PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE ON CHALLENGES FACED BY THE AUDITOR GENERAL
HON. B. DUBE: Thank you Madam Speaker Ma’am. I move the motion standing in my name that this House considers and adopts the Report of the Public Accounts Committee on challenges faced by the Auditor General.
HON. MUSHORIWA: I second.
HON. B. DUBE:
1.1 Section 10 (1) (a) of the Audit Office Act provides for the preparation and presentation of the Auditor-General’s Annual Reports. It states the following:
“The Comptroller and Auditor-General, after examining the accounts transmitted to him or her in terms of section 35(6) and (7) of the Public Finance Management Act [Chapter 22:19], and the accounts of any public entity, designated corporate body or statutory fund, and after signing a certificate recording the result of his or her examination, shall—
(a) prepare and submit to the Minister, not later than the 30th of June in each year, a report on the outcome of his or her examination and audit of the accounts referred to him or her in terms of section 6(1).”
1.2 For the past five years from 2018 going backwards, the Auditor-General has been meeting her statutory deadline. This has enabled the Public Accounts Committee to examine the reports and compile its own reports with recommendations aimed at addressing the anomalies raised. The 2019 Auditor-General’s Reports were however tabled in the National Assembly on 18 June in 2021, almost a year after the prescribed timeframe. The 2020 Reports have not been completed and their tabling will also be belated since the expected time for completion of their preparation is the second week of December 2021. The effect of the late preparation and tabling has the effect of rendering the examination of reports an academic exercise as the effects of the malpractices will not be addressed in good time.
1.3 Concerned about the current delays, the Public Accounts Committee resolved to enquire into the causes of the delays with a view to proposing remedial action. To get an insight into the challenges the Audit Office is facing resulting in the late preparation and tabling of the reports, the Public Accounts Committee resolved to engage the Auditor-General. The Auditor-General made her submissions to the Committee whose contents were useful in coming up with this report.
- Committee’s Findings
In analysing the challenges affecting the timely preparation of the Auditor-General’s Report, the Committee divided these into two categories, those beyond the Audit Offices’ control and those within their control. Blow is a summary of the challenges noted by the Committee.
2.1 COVID-19 pandemic
2.1.1 The Audit Office was not spared by the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic whose outbreak in Zimbabwe in early 2020 brought about serious disruptions to the people’s way of life. With regards to the operations of the Audit Office, the Committee gathered that at the onset of COVID-19, the Public Service Commission (PSC) issued Circular Number 1, dated January 5, 2020 directing ministries, government departments and agencies to reduce staff to 30% of their complements. This was followed by a total lockdown countrywide of 21 days in which only workers who provided essential services were allowed to report for work as per PSC Circular Number 4, dated March 27, 2020. Circular Number 6, dated April 20, 2020 extended the lockdown to 3 May, 2020. The Audit Office did not fall in the category of essential services. As such, staff from the Office could not report for duty.
2.1.2 The Auditor-General submitted that during this time, Ministries had started submitting their financial statements for audit. However, no audits for the 2019 financial year had been conducted from March to May which is the normal peak period before the Office sends its Reports to Printflow for printing. It was only when the lockdown was relaxed on 20 May, 2020 that skeletal staff was allowed to attend work to provide essential services that the audits began in earnest. This was practically late for the Office to meet the June 30 deadline.
2.1.3 The Committee leant that in 2021 during the period of the second wave, the Public Service Commission issued Circular Number 2 dated January 20, 2021 directing ministries, departments and agencies to reduce staff for the period January 21, 2021 to February 3, 2021 from 30% to 10%. In February 2021, Circular Number 9 dated February 16, 2021 was issued directing ministries, departments and agencies to increase staff from 10% to 25%. As a result of these restrictions, audit coverage was reported to have been very limited as the auditees in ministries and departments were equally affected and attendance was erratic.
2.1.4 The Auditor-General indicated that when the third wave began, the number of officers reporting for duty was maintained at 25% through PSC Circular Number 21 dated July, 2021. She submitted that a review of this percentage came in September through PSC Circular Number 23 dated September 8, 2021 which allowed ministries, departments and agencies to increase staff coming to work from 25% to 50%. While the limited numbers were reporting for work, visits to work stations (where the audit work is executed from) were minimised to avoid face to face contact in line with COVID-19 containment measures. The Office operated by requesting documents to be submitted to the Office by clients and this method did not match the face to face audits in terms of speed because of the erratic attendance of work by client and staff. Ultimately, the Reports had only been completed and tabling finally done on 8 June 2021.
2.2. Sick Staff
2.2.1 The Committee was informed that members of staff in the Audit Office were not spared from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Auditor-General submitted that a number of her staff were infected with the virus and had to isolate themselves at home. The Committee learnt that in July 2020, the Office had completely shut down for two weeks because the level of infection on staff had been too high with the highest figure being 23 officers. Although none succumbed to the pandemic, some staff lost their close acquaintances. The Committee was encouraged by the report indicating that most of the staff are now vaccinated, the remainder are being encouraged to do so as this is now a requirement for all Government workers as they are deemed to be frontline workers.
2.3. Limited Time for Auditing Due to Transport Challenges
2.3.1 The Committee gathered that most of the staff in the Audit Office rely on the Public Service Commission buses for commuting to and from work as the Office does not have its own transport system. Some of the staff was reported to arrive rather late for work around 9.00am since some of them are picked up on the second trips. Thereafter, they have to go to their clients and auditees at various ministries and state enterprises where they may arrive around 10:00 am. In the afternoon, the first trips were reported to leave around 3:15pm and so for staff to catch the buses, they in turn have to leave the clients’ premises around 2:30pm, effectively leaving them with about four (4) hours per day to carry out audits. This obviously takes a huge toll on the audit progress as the pace is delayed considerably.
2.4. Limited Numbers of Staff
2.4.1 The Committee acknowledges Government’s efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. The recent Public Service Commission Circular which allows numbers to increase to 50% is a welcome development which will somewhat expedite the progress of audits. The numbers, however, remain a real challenge to the progress of audits.
2.5. Audit Coverage
2.5.1 Due to the pandemic, audit coverage was severely affected. The Committee learnt that the Audit Office staff was not able to visit stations outside Harare as planned and thus delayed finalisation of the audits. This greatly affected some ministries which are decentralised.
2.6. Staff Turnover
2.6.1 The Committee gathered that the Audit Office continues to lose experienced staff due to low salaries, leaving a lot of vacancies. Out of an establishment of 381, the Office was operating with 120 vacant posts which were proving difficult to fill because of the unattractive salaries. The effect of vacant posts was reported to be putting a strain on the remaining employees and retarding the progress of the audits.
- INTERNAL CHALLENGES
3.1. Tools of Trade
3.1.1 Most of the laptops used by the staff were reported to be old having since outlived their useful lives. In addition, staff was reported to be sharing laptops when the ideal situation is for each auditor to have his/her own laptop to work from. This definitely negatively affects audit progress.
3.2. Audit Software
3.2.1 The Committee was informed that the audit processes were still manual and therefore, it was difficult to audit remotely without being physically present at the client or auditee. Due to the highly contagious nature of the pandemic, the Public Service Commission, through Circular Number 1 of 2021, banned physical meetings and selection interviews making physical audits a serious challenge.
4.1. Transport Challenges
4.1.1 With the relaxation of the lockdown measures which include the increasing of manpower to 50%, it is hoped that significant groundwork will be covered. To capitalise on this window, the Audit Office indicated that it is now in the process of trying to hire buses that will transport some of its staff to and from work. This arrangement will enable staff to work up to 5:00pm and beyond after making necessary arrangements with the auditees. This would enable the Office to expedite the completion of audits. The Office indicated its plans to acquire staff buses on a permanent basis to ferry staff to work stations.
4.2 Limited Staff Numbers
The Committee was informed that salaries for staff in the Audit Office had been reviewed upwards in September 2021. It is the Committee’s hope that this development will bring about stability in staff turnover and that the Office will be able to attract staff into the Office with interviews already lined up for the week beginning 4 October 2021 in order to fill the vacant posts. The new recruits will assist in the final audits but they are expected to be more effective after receiving training which will be held after the finalisation of the 2020 audits.
5.0 Long-term Solutions
5.1 Audit Software
5.1.1 The Committee was advised that the Audit Office had made arrangements with AFROSAI-E to help it to install an auditing software and to train the staff in the use of the software. Staff from AFROSAI-E were reported to have committed themselves to coming into the country to physically train the Audit Office staff once the current lockdown measures are eased in the countries with individuals that have signaled their willingness to assist in the use of this software. This programme is expected to be implemented in 2022. The digitalisation project mentioned below would automate the rest of the Office processes. Financial resources to train staff, as well as to acquire laptops is required.
5.2. Audit Coverage, Partly Manual Systems
5.2.1 The Committee was also advised that the Audit Office had submitted to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, requirements regarding IT equipment which entails computerisation of all its Office processes including auditing. This is expected to be financed through a provision in the 2022 National budget. It is believed that when the digitalisation process has been completed, the Office will be able to carry out audits remotely thereby reducing paperwork and manual processes. The project is expected to take two or three years to complete.
5.2.2 Government was reported to be in the process of trying to digitalise the processes, and when this has been done, auditors will be able to interrogate auditees’ data remotely and should the pandemic continue for some time, audits will be done in time.
5.3. Tools of Trade
5.3.1 The Audit Office informed the Committee that it had floated a tender for the purchase of 200 laptops. The adjudication papers and other relevant documents were reported to have been sent for the attention of (SPOC) Special Procurement Oversight Committee and feedback from the Procurement Regulatory Association of Zimbabwe was expected any time before proceeding to award the tender to the winning bidder. However, as mentioned earlier, funds would always be required to replace the laptops periodically as their life span is generally short.
- RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE EXECUTIVE
6.1. Digitalization of Government Financial Processes
6.1.1 The Committee recommends that the Executive, through the Ministry of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services, expedites and achieves the digitalisation of Government accounts by June 2022 so as to complement and facilitate audit efforts when conducting audits remotely.
7.2. Availability of Financial Resources
7.2.1 The Committee also recommends that the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development releases financial resources for the smooth functioning of the Audit Office as it has fully committed to support the Office in digitalisation and other requirements.
8.1 The Committee commends the Audit Office for its sterling efforts in preparing Annual Audits under the difficult circumstances. The Committee notes that the Office managed to undertake two special audits on COVID-19 and Cyclone Idai. The Audit Office requires all the support that will enable it to do its work as mandated by the laws of the country. The Auditor-General’s work and that of the Public Accounts Committee assists the Executive to be accountable so that the people of Zimbabwe who are the owners of the resources have confidence in the manner in which the resources are utilised for their benefit. I thank you.
(v)HON. MUSHORIWA: Thank you Madam Speaker for giving me the opportunity to second the motion by Hon. B. Dube, the Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee in respect to the operations of the Auditor-General’s Office. Madam Speaker, the AG is mandated by the Act of Parliament, Audit Office Act Chapter 22:18 and it is also mandated by our supreme law which is the Constitution. The Auditor-General’s mission is to examine, audit and report to us Parliament on the management of public resources of Zimbabwe through committed and motivated staff, with the aim of improving accountability and good corporate governance. I state this mission and also let me just state the vision which is to be the centre of excellence in the provision of auditing service. The reason why I state the mission and vision of the AG and also the Constitution and the relevant statutes that resulted in this office being created is to just put on the centre stage the importance of this office. The AG’s office audits all Government ministries, all state enterprises and all local authorities throughout the country. Apart from doing the annual audits, this office also does forensic reports and forensic audits as requested by line ministries, Parliament or other relevant authorities. They also do special value for money audits and other various activities that this office does in line with the mandate that we gave them.
Now, when you have got an office that you superintend and does audit every part of the Government fiscus, to me that office becomes an essential office and the staff members that work in that office deserve to be listed under essential services. I think should the COVID-19 infections spike, it is crucial and important that this office needs to be given that special dispensation.
The Hon. Chairperson has indicated in the report that the Auditor-General, because of COVID is now behind her schedule. You may be aware that only last week, the Minister of Finance laid before us the Auditor-General Report for the year ended 31 December, 2020 which reports were supposed to have been done by 30 June, 2021.
However, I would like to thank the Auditor-General and her staff because despite the challenges, they have done a splendid job in doing these two reports; the 2018 and 2020 reports. Hopefully, the 2021 Auditor-General reports may possibly come earlier probably close to the 30 June deadline.
Most auditing offices across the region and in the world are allocated 1% of the budget. That percentage makes your audit office to be professional, to be able to retain critical staff. We have a situation at the moment where our audit office is lagging behind because it becomes a training ground for professionals and auditors. Once they would have reached the peak, they then leave and we continue training. In my view and the Committee’s view, it is important that when we do budget debates, we should urge the Minister of Finance to ensure that a sizeable budget is given.
The Hon. Chairperson indicated that if you look even at the challenges under COVID, we have auditors who do not have their laptops and that is unbelievable. We need every auditor not only to have a laptop but also to have top of the range phones so that they will be in a position to work off site and be able to even communicate with those that are in the office.
We also need our auditors to visit some of the areas, imagine you have got the Auditor-General’s office having to travel to Zvishavane, Mberengwa for tour audits.
It is also our view that the audit office needs quality vehicles. One of the things that you find is that you have got workers that come to work late or who use the Public Service Commission Buses which sometimes arrives around 8 to 9 am. So by the time they reach the offices, she would have to first report to her office and by the time she moves from the office to go to, for example, the Ministry of Transport for an audit, she will arrive there at around 12 pm and break for lunch at 1300hrs. At 1500hrs, she has to come back so that she goes to the PSC buses to board the bus back home. This compromises the quality of work that the AG’s will be doing.
In that regard, I stand here to support the recommendations that your Committee have put up and urge all the Members of this august House to offer their support to this Committee’s recommendations. I thank you.
HON. MPARIWA: Thank you Madam Speaker for giving me this opportunity to debate on this very important motion which has been tabled by Hon. Dube the Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee where I also happen to be a Committee Member.
The motion is ‘challenges faced by the Auditor-General’. To those who may not know where the AG’s office is situated, it is just next to ZIMRA, corner George Silundika and Fourth Street, Burroughs House, a very small house, with water spillages because of sewer and broken pipes. On the 1st to the 5th floor, you will find the offices of the AG whom we are talking about with broken furniture, non-functioning lift for so many years. Again with demoralised staff because of the several issues that have been touched by both the Chairperson who is the mover and the seconder of the motion Hon. Mushoriwa.
Madam Speaker, you will realise that when one is actually asked to perform a duty or a responsibility; there has to be what we call the tools of the trade so that you have better results. When one is actually doing the work like what Hon. Mushoriwa has cited, the role of the AG as per the Constitution, the expectation of the nation is high in terms of the work that will be produced after money has been put or invested in a particular programme.
I will not hesitate to think of the fight that was put across in Victoria Falls by both Members of the Public Accounts Committee and also by Members of Parliament from the other Committees in support of the AG’s office to be properly funded but to this end, it has not happened.
I want to pay tribute to Madam Chiri who is our Auditor-General and her team, who even in the absence of what we are talking about as problems and challenges, they have continued to excel and work beyond the capacity that they could have renegade their responsibilities and the appeal has been made.
Madam Speaker, you will realise that when a department is not prioritised for example during the era of the peak of the COVID pandemic, the AG’s office was put aside; they could not come to work because it was not a priority. When actually in this very House, we requested because as per the Constitution, the AG’S reports have got to be tabled in Parliament at a specified period of time and how that would have happened when that particular department has been sidelined as not being an essential service boggles the mind.
We call upon the various Government apparatus that evaluate and see the priority departments of Government to also slot in the AG’s office because it is one critical department that we cannot operate without especially the Public Accounts Committee. We rely on the reports and timeous submission of those reports because they might expire. When they expire without being tabled in Parliament, it means the Public Accounts Committee will not have any effective role to play because money will be going down the drain without actually us coming to this Chamber to report on problems that will have been faced in the various departments of Government and state-owned enterprises.
I will move on to staff retention. I know that the Chairperson has touched on the staff in the Office of the AG, we have had cases from the AGs Office where the majority of staff have actually left but they have not gone out of the country. They have joined state owned enterprises or the private sector for greener pastures, for simple things that could be done in terms of getting: buying them vehicles, laptops et cetera so that at least we are equating them with those professionals where they are actually relocating to.
Madam Speaker, poor salaries remains a challenge. When one can compare and contrast the difference, therefore, there is skills flight in the AGs office and we appeal to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and the Public Service Commission to improve the conditions of service that also touches on salaries. This will enable us to have staff retention in the AGs Office and continue to benefit as a country in terms of the evaluation, reports and even skills because those people are qualified. When we lose them we are taking the work of the AG for granted and we are demoralising the AG and the other staff members. Housing issue came to my mind when I was looking at the conditions of service so that at least there is some kind of attraction. In the state owned enterprises people get houses. In the private sector, people get houses, they get stands et cetera, why are we not just accelerating our attraction package.
I think I need to emphasise that the loss of confidence in terms the organisation depends on how we view and value it. If we put importance in a certain organisation, it means there is confidence even amongst the staff, but where there is loss of confidence, even the work will be substandard. Madam Speaker, I do not think we would want to go that way. I am appealing that the recommendations and the findings of the report to be adopted by this particular House. I have paid tribute already to the AG Madam Chiri, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and the Public Service Commission so that they can improve the conditions of service and also what was promised by the Minister in order to address the problems that have been highlighted in this report in Victoria Falls. I appeal for these to be implemented.
As I conclude Madam Speaker, we need these recommendations to be adopted by the House because then we can improve efficiency and effectiveness of the AGs Office. It is my humble submission and appeal that I think this report, though it has come late but it is never too late if adopted and we implement so that the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service Commission actually run with some of the recommendations so that come the following year, we will be able to reap some results in a better way. Otherwise, I want to salute the workers in the AGs Office and the AG herself to say hats off, under very difficult circumstances, they have managed to be part of those that can be counted even within the SADC region, I thank you.
HON. R. R. NYATHI: Good afternoon Hon. Speaker Ma’am.
THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: Good afternoon.
HON. R. R. NYATHI: I want to add my voice to the motion that has been moved by Hon. Dube, seconded by Hon. Mushoriwa. Hon. Speaker Ma’am, everyone has got one life to live. It is common knowledge that a person spends one-third of his life where he works. It is also presumed that one-third of your life, it is where you sleep and one-third of your life is when you socialise and do other things. From the report that I have just heard from the Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee, it shows that our employees that are employed at the AGs Office the work conditions are not favourable.
Madam Speaker, I want to support the idea that there must be properly equipped in order for them to be motivated to work, I also want to mention the fact that it is very difficult for a manager to have new employees coming to the department every time. You will be going through a process of training and training without any production because much of our employees in the AGs Office, once they are trained, they get a reasonable experience, they leave. I am glad that the Hon. Member that has just spoken said some of the employees are employed somewhere in Zimbabwe, which is better but if these people are going outside the country then it is not good for the country, you know that the country invests a lot of resources in training people from pre-school up to one gets a degree. The Government puts in a lot of money, a lot of training and when one is trained, he does not give the training to grow his own country he goes to another country and production is done in another country. That becomes a challenge to us which means that we need to improve the working conditions to reduce the plight of these employees.
I also want to mention that you also noticed that at the AGs Office, we have been told that there are vacancies which are over 132 members and some of them are quite specialized. The question is why are people not taking up these positions, it is because of the remunerations that are very poor and the working conditions. You will also realise that your Committees in this Parliament rely heavily on the reports of the AGs Office for us to perform our oversight duties. I see that this Department of Government is very important and it must be properly resourced. I felt that with these few comments Hon. Speaker Ma’am, if this Ministry is properly resourced it will help us to improve the conditions of how our Government Ministries are working, how Parliament works and with all the training that the AGs Office is doing, it is also good for us to those that are within the country and are also improving on the audits in our various sectors it will also improve the conditions and the economy of our country. I thank you.
HON. T. MLISWA: Madam Speaker, I want to recognise the tabling of the report by the able Chairperson Hon. Dube…
THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: You are not connected Hon. Mliswa.
HON. T. MLISWA: Madam Speaker, I want to recognise this report tabled by our able Chairperson Hon. Dube, seconded by Hon. Mushoriwa and also other Hon. Members who have contributed to this motion which I believe is more important than anything else in this country – accountability and transparency.
Madam Speaker, they have been kind but this office is first of all, headed by a woman who is God-fearing, who is passionate about this country and fearless. The reports that she has produced in exposing the corruption, misappropriation and unaccountability of funds from the State; it can only be God protecting her. She still insists to want to do this job for the country. There is nothing that is in it for her from a remuneration point of view. This is probably the poorest job but the most demanding and important for the country but yet you are paid nothing. That goes also to her subordinates, who are equally committed. You cannot compromise such an office by underpaying them. When you underpay them, then the corrupt are then able to capture them and equally give them money so that they do not expose them. However, under her leadership, nothing like that has happened despite the number of attempts and threats on the work she does.
At times I say to myself, if I was in her position, where you are working for the country and there is no support, why would you continue? This Committee has taken it upon itself to say that people must understand that there is somebody who is looking out for our money out there, for public money and tax payers’ money. Where is it going and how is it being spent? Madam Speaker, you know that each time reports come here from her office, there is panic within the system and within ministries because there are people who are gifted to go and steal money in these ministries, they do not do anything. There is also somebody, God has sent to go and watch them still and expose them. The problem is that when God sends you to expose the thief and the devil and no one does anything about it, what then do you do? This is what has been happening with this office, they have done everything to expose corruption.
First of all, you award them by making sure that people who are exposed are incarcerated, by making sure that recommendations coming from the Auditor-General’s Office are implemented. How many recommendations have come through from each Portfolio Committee, from her finding things which should be implemented? Why is Parliament passing budgets when the Auditor-General’s Office is saying this Ministry is misappropriating funds?
As Members of Parliament, it comes to us and we stand here and pass budgets on ministries where the Auditor-General is saying there is theft on that ministry but we continue to pass those Votes to a Government department that is stealing money. She has done her job and now it is up to us. We are failing her because most of the ministries are not supposed to be getting money because they are not accounting for their money.
You saw the Public Accounts Report on Command Agriculture, the Ministry did not even know that they were given $2.5 billion until a Mr. Mberikwazvo Chitando from Sakunda then said no, we were not given $3.6 billion, we were given $1.1 billion. $2.5 billion was given to the Ministry. We are sitting in a Committee and GMB who were given the money were asked, where you given the money? They did not know. $2.5 billion given to a parastatal to pay for maize and for small grains, they did not know. To me, we have people in Government who cannot account for money and why are we still giving them money and passing money? Basically this money is going to waste.
Madam Speaker, you will see that essential services – when COVID-19 hit hard, they were not at work. Do you know what it was? It is somebody within the system who realised that when the cat is away, the mice will play, that is when a lot of money payakabiwa nekuti katsi yanga isipo- (was stolen because the cat was away) - saka makonzo anga akungoenda kwese-kwese- (so the mice were spreading everywhere) - mari yakabiwa paya-paya - (Money was stolen during that period). You can see even from COVID reports kuti mari yakafamba sei- (how money was transacted) -pane zvaiitika nekuti ziso riya rinoona mari ranga risipo, (something was happening because the eye that guards the money was missing.)
THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon. Mliswa, please may you use one language.
HON. T. MLISWA: It is a passionate appeal in Shona at times Madam Speaker, so I will always do that and some Ndebele, I will put in when necessary but thank you Madam Speaker, I stand guided by you. So, Madam Speaker, we know the situation where essential services were not there. Why was the goalkeeper not there? – when the money now which was coming through from COVID did not pass through Parliament, Parliament was closed and they have got that right to go and spend money, seek condonation later. They did not come to seek condonation, they used that money. The accountability of the COVID money through your office, you can see that there was something missing. They are an essential service and how can they not be giving the service? Later on, after a thought, you said they must be there because you realise that accountability is needed.
Madam Speaker, the most important person in any institution is the internal auditor who should see if the system is being followed, are things being done properly. Without the internal auditor, then you are basically not at all going to be able to account for the money. In terms of monitoring and evaluation which most ministries have not done, they also go in to do that, they monitor, evaluate every programme on behalf of people who were supposed to be working there.
When we talk about 1% of the budget going towards them, it does not mean much, that is the truth of the matter. It is therefore important without any further delay or any debate that this 1% be given to this department because it is the one that is looking after the people’s money. Madam Speaker, you cannot allow them to be compromised in any situation at all. This compromised situation is something which requires us as a people to look at it and say, for how long are we going to have a compromised people?
Mr. Speaker Sir, it only leaves us to look at ourselves and say those civil servants working hard for the good of the country, how do we reward them so that they are not compromised? It is how you incentivise them at the end of the day through simple basic programmes like a national housing scheme where you give them accommodation, where you make sure that their children get good schooling and they have good transport. This has got to be extended to such people who serve the nation because that, which they are serving, means a lot in terms of us as a country achieving what we want. We cannot achieve anything without accountability being there.
Mr. Speaker Sir, we talk about there not being enough money to employ, here comes the catch, where is the money to outsource other chartered firms when that money can be used to pay the workers? There is money to outsource private companies to go and do work on their behalf. First of all, we have a problem in this House already on the NSSA Report. The NSSA Report has been challenged because a private company was outsourced and when you are outsourcing a private company and you are responsible for the accountability and transparency of taxpayers’ money, it becomes difficult. There are certain jobs that you cannot outsource because accountability and transparency is internal. The moment Mr. Speaker Sir, you outsource, you are compromised, information leaks and now you are not in control of it. That is why most of the reports are now being challenged in the courts. Yet the Report from the Auditor General’s Office which she does with the team have never been challenged but we are prepared to pay for that private company, yet we are not prepared to remunerate the already existing staff in the Auditor General’s Office. Why are we saying there is no money to pay them? How do they work?
Mr. Speaker Sir, they get demotivated. Vana venyu vanopera power kuti sei mari iri kuenda kune vamwe vanhu isu tiri muno. Mari yemaprivate Chartered Accountant Companies iripo,asi yekuti tivandudze team yedu haipo. Vanopera power. Mr. Speaker Sir, it is important that you look after your own first before you go out there. Still they go and clean up the mess. We want to calculate how much money has gone into outsourcing the other companies and how much is needed for them to be fully kitted in terms of the vacancies. You heard that 132 vacancies have not been taken up, who is giving them less money to employ these people but at the same time keeping money for outsourcing. Who is doing that?
You have got to see that the Minister of Finance is also a culprit. We must call a spade a spade. The Minister of Finance, though he is a responsible Minister, the accountability leaves a lot to be desired. They have failed to hold most ministries accountable for the monies that they give to them. First of all, it starts with the parent ministry giving money to the other line ministries. How are you spending the money? How are you spending the money? Unfortunately, the chief accounting officers of the ministries in this country, the permanent secretaries, a lot leaves to be desired in terms of their understanding of corporate governance. They need to go for an induction for a good year of corporate governance.
They need to be put in a military school for corporate governance. That will get them to understand that corporate governance is not debatable. Corporate governance is corporate governance and because of that Mr. Speaker Sir, the Ministers themselves and the Deputy Ministers now do not understand. Most of the Ministers who come to Parliament, when you ask them questions, they are a bit in the dark because they have not been well briefed by the permanent secretary who is the chief accounting officer. What are they chief accounting when there is misappropriation of funds? There is corruption.
How many reports has Public Accounts brought before here where we hear that cars have been paid for but they did not see the cars. The cars never came and people walk away. They are not arrested. Nothing happens. You have got somebody who is there to open doors for those for those who are able to benefit in an unfair way and we allow that to happen. 132 vacancies, how much does it cost the country for us to have a supreme office which will ensure that the money from tax payers is taken care of? The Auditor General’s Office has been able to follow money, not only Government parastatals and local authorities but money where Government has spent, even in the private sector. They have been able to fish out and say that this is how the money was spent, it was not spent properly. The 75% of the recommendations in the reports that have come through have been very adverse in terms of how money has been spent in all these ministries.
All that needs to be done that needs to be done is to motivate them by giving them better incentives. What is really needed in terms of an incentive at the end of the day Mr. Speaker Sir? I say this because Madam Chiri has got to go down in the history of this world as a woman who fearlessly has done her job. May the good Lord keep protecting her because I am telling you, even men that I know are not able to do that job and expose what has been happening. She has received threats left, right and centre but she keeps doing her job. She has no protection, she has nothing. If there is anybody who was supposed to be protected in this country, munhu anofumura mbavha dzinobira nyika but she has never requested for any extra security. She has never requested for anything. This must be a tribute to her.
THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: Order, Hon. Member you are left with five minutes to go.
HON. T. MLISWA: Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir. It is important that these five minutes I dedicate to this woman who has done an extremely great job. Any young girl who is growing up must aspire for that office because she has shown that there are people who can work for the country without getting anything but remain in position without fear or favour. Without fear or favour, she has exposed reports which have put us in good line internationally and the international standard has been set by a Government Department which most are not able to do at the end of the day.
She has been a model. She has been an inspiration. She has been an example of how one conducts their job but more importantly Madam Speaker, she is not loud, she is full of humility and very calm. You do not see her angry, even when she presents this before us, you say but what more can we do as a Committee. This Committee has had time with her. This Committee is the Public Accounts Committee which is able to chase after tax payers’ money. What we recommend must have no debate but must be supported by everybody because it is for the good of the country.
In conclusion Mr. Speaker Sir, there is no nation that can prosper without people selflessly dedicating themselves. Unfortunately those who selflessly dedicate themselves are never recognised. For me, if I was an award giving person, I would have given her an award year in year out because of the work that she does for this country and the team that she leads. Mr. Speaker Sir, I want to say that God hear my prayer that the Auditor General’s Office be given what they want so that we remain effective, we remain a nation which is able to account for our resources at the end of the day.
Mr. Speaker Sir, I want to thank Hon. Dube, the chairperson who raised issue at a time when we must be looking forward to the Budget and say where should we put our money. I appeal to you all Members of Parliament for your support that may the 1% of the Budget go towards this Office for it does a good job for us. The way they summaries issues, the way they conduct themselves is professional despite them not being well remunerated. I thank you Mr. Speaker Sir. May God protect her and bless her as she continues to work for the country. Madam Chiri, I attribute this to you. Thank you.
(v)HON. NYOKANHETE: Thank you very much Mr. Speaker Sir. Let me add my voice to the report presented by Hon. Dube and seconded by Hon. Mushoriwa for the challenges faced by the Office of the Auditor General. Mr. Speaker Sir, Zimbabwe has been hit by brain drain of professionals over the past years with the major pushing factors including the low remuneration, low job satisfaction, collapse of funding and also the decline in exchange regimes. Mr. Speaker Sir, our external auditors have faced the above challenges similar to other professions. Remuneration is a key issue.
In Kenya the Government Auditor gets about US$1 095. In South Africa, a Government Auditor gets about US$1 088. We cannot over-emphasise the importance of the Office of the Office of the Auditor General Mr. Speaker Sir. For us to be doing proper oversight as Parliament we depend on Auditor General Reports. Our Auditor General and even our Parliament staff are much underpaid and this is directly affecting our work. We cannot do oversight when we are working with staff that is very much demotivated. We have the demotivated staff from the Auditor-General’s office and also our technical staff from the Parliament of Zimbabwe is very much underpaid. As also highlighted by Hon. Dube, the Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee, the 2020 Auditor-General reports were tabled a few weeks back after a long delay because the AG’s office was facing some big challenges.
Ladies and gentlemen, let us call a spade a spade. Government workers are earning peanuts. Right now we have a situation where there is a promise or something which is being said that there is a 20% increment on their salaries and the big question is, is the 20% an increment of what? It is something that is increased from nothing – from some few dollars and you are saying we are giving these workers a 20% increase. It is 20% of what Mr. Speaker? Let us call a spade a spade. Our Government workers are suffering because of this issue of remuneration. We will not talk of the issue of the Parliamentarians because today we need to dwell on the Government workers. We want them to be professionals and discharge their duties professionally but a hungry person is a very demotivated person. We are talking of a chartered accountant who is needed worldwide. Some few weeks back, I was talking to a colleague of mine who used to work in the AG’s office. He is now in the USA and he openly said I cannot die whilst I am alive because of being remunerated poorly. They are not here to be demotivated. There are pull factors for people to move to greener pastures which are attractive salaries and other opportunities that arise outside. They have families to raise and school fees to pay for their children. Let these push and pull factors be addressed, otherwise Zimbabwe will remain a training ground for many professionals. The last time we were just hearing the issue of staff who work in the health sector leaving to go and work in other countries. Inasmuch as you put some restrictions for them not to leave, they still can go there because no one wants to die seeing his/her children suffering, not being able to pay school fees or rent. These issues need to be addressed. Why am I saying that? If a demotivated person continues to work, the quality of work is affected and it can be compromised. When it comes to corruption, a person who is investigating many issues concerning the corrupt activities being done by different people and that same person is given a few dollars, this can trigger corruption because you cannot investigate a case to do with millions of dollars whilst you are going home with less than $200. So, inasmuch as we may want to arrest corruption, let us fight it by first giving all these professionals a respectable remuneration which earns them respect from their spouses and make his/her family happy.
Mr. Speaker Sir, we have our AG, Mrs. Chiri who is a very professional and competent person. However, she also needs to lead a team of motivated people. Let the AG’s office be given their disbursements in time and please review their salaries and that of other Government workers.
Let me conclude by speaking on the transport challenge being faced by the workers. My greatest appeal to solve the transport challenge is for Government to consider the AG’s office by acquiring new buses for them which are separate from the ones allocated to the Public Service Commission. Let the office of the AG be supported by the budget. Also let the disbursement come in time and not for the disbursement to come during the final quarter of the year when most people will have gone outside the country or they are leaving work. We need to support our Auditor-General by making sure that she is going to lead motivated staff and she leads people who are happy and not people who are complaining and crying over poor remuneration. I thank you.
(v)HON. SANSOLE: Thank you Mr. Speaker for allowing me to also add my voice to this debate on the report presented by the Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee, seconded by Hon. Mushoriwa. The AG’s office is the watch dog of Government finances. It is the office that ensures that all revenues that we are supposed to collect as a nation has been collected; It is the office that also ensures that all revenue is properly accounted for and that all expenditure is properly incurred as well as looking after the nation’s assets. It is the enforcer of transparency and accountability. Mr. Speaker, it therefore boggles the mind that at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the office was not classified as essential service. One wonders then what the definition of essential service is.
Secondly, on the issue of transport, it is unfortunate that due to transport constraints, the audit staff were only able to put in four hours of work per day, which is half the amount of time they were supposed to put in per day. I think it is absolutely essential that these people are assisted to acquire their own vehicles rather than rely on public service buses. I know that there is a recommendation to improve the bus service but I think it will be more effective to give them loans to acquire their own vehicles and also assist them to bring in duty free vehicles.
The audit failed because of poor salaries and this is worrying. Accountants do not come cheap Mr. Speaker, and it is important as alluded to by the previous speakers to ensure that attractive salaries are paid to these officers in order to retain their services. It should not only be attractive salaries but also benefits that go with the job.
Finally, I just want to speak on the release of funds by Treasury. It appears that Treasury is in the habit of micro managing the budget of Government departments. There is no need to micro-manage the budget of the AG’s office, give them their money and let them manage their own budget. I think the recommendations by the Committee for the budget, that every quarter, money should be released, I would support that and it should be followed through. I thank you.
(v)HON. MOLOKELE-TSIYE: I rise in support of the report that has been presented by the Committee through its Chairperson Hon. Dube, seconded by Hon. Mushoriwa. I am in full support of the recommendations of the Committee.
Practically speaking, there is nothing new in terms of the issues and observations that have been raised in the report. A few days ago, we listened to another Committee Report focusing on the Zimbabwe Republic Police; we listened also to another report focusing on the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation. So, there is a list of institutions that are in the same situation that the Auditor-General’s office is facing.
What is common is that the challenges that they are facing are universal, as one of the Hon. Members has already mentioned. In general, all civil servants are facing similar situations. We are aware that the teachers under the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education have been on strike for almost two years now. We also know that in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, we have situations with regards to healthcare workers who have also been having some actions concerning their conditions of employment and they are still concerned about some of these issues.
We also know as a country and as Parliament that Zimbabwe is losing a lot of these skilled professionals to South Africa, Botswana and other countries in the region not to mention those in Europe, America and others. I think it is important to realise that at the end of the day, someone has to make a decision in terms of policies, laws that make sure that not only do we stop having this brain drain but also that we make sure that whoever we train in this country does not necessarily leave the country.
Therefore, at the end of the day, the only thing that needs to be done is to make sure that the conditions in terms of employment are clearly upgraded.
Yesterday, we listened to the Minister of Finance and Economic Development Hon. Prof M. Ncube. However, there was no clear commitment from his side as far as I remember, with regards to the improvement of the conditions of service for those in public service. I think it is the responsibility of Parliament to make sure that the Ministry that is responsible for the public servants and indeed the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Hon. Prof. M. Ncube is held accountable.
We cannot continue like this as a country. I, personally would be happy if a vote of no confidence motion can be moved against the Finance to show the people of Zimbabwe that we are serious in addressing the issue that they are facing and that we are serious in stopping this brain drain.
Essentially, a lot of resources that we are investing in is the same human capital that we are losing. There is no need to train accountants, auditors, doctors, nurses only for them to leave the country and benefit other countries. , As a Parliament of Zimbabwe, we need to take a strong position. We need to make sure that when the budget is being announced, the public servants of this country get an allocation that improves their terms and conditions of service.
In particular, it has been cited that the AG’s office should receive 1% of the budget. As Parliamentarians, we do not need to talk about it, we need to take a strong position and make sure that when it comes to voting for the budget and approving it, we can take a public position and say as Members of Parliament, we are refusing to pass the budget until the 1% is fully allocated to the AG’s office. Then we would have proved that we do not just talk but walk the talk.
Therefore, I am challenging us as Parliamentarians that next time around, we should take a public position that we will not pass the new budget for the next year until that 1% is allocated to the AG’s office with an emphasis that it is not just allocation but timeous disbursement so that we make sure the AG’s office functions effectively for the good of this country.
We talk about fighting corruption in Zimbabwe, how can we fight corruption when we are not funding the AG’s office? How can we win the battle against corruption when the AG’s office is losing a lot of its skilled and experienced staff? We need to make sure that the AG’s office is properly financed and also that it is properly staffed.
I will also echo the sentiments raised by some Hon. Members that we also need to make sure that the AG’s office is an essential service, whether there is COVID or any other emergency, we must make sure that the AG’s office is allowed to function as much as possible because they play a watchdog role in terms of national resources and public administration of resources. I thank you.
HON. TOGAREPI: I would like to thank Hon. Dube for this report which I think has very pertinent issues that affect the Auditor-General’s office. Chief among them is the funding of the AG’s office; nobody can dispute that such a critical office needs to have adequate funding for it to function at its optimum. We can only get enough information if those who are working in the AG’s office are well resourced.
As the Second Republic, the emphasis has been to fight corruption, to ensure that we have proper use of public funds in the public sector. His Excellency, the President has been encouraging the whole populace to fight corruption. However, the best source of information for us to fight corruption is from an informed position like the AG’s office. So, I agree that the AG’s office needs the 1% proposed funding.
The Auditor-General’s office is recognised by our Constitution to do its work without bias, undue influence from anybody and I think Madam Chiri is doing her job and working very well, following what the leadership of this country is pushing. She is exposing malpractices within our ministries and other institutions that are related to
Government which I think is critical.
My area of worry Mr. Speaker is that most of these audit reports come too late. They come too late for any action to be taken and sometimes they would have been overtaken by events, and you cannot do anything. I think it is because of incapacitation in terms of expertise in the Auditor-General’s Office or there is resistance to change within the same department. We should not just look at the Auditor-General’s Office as very disadvantaged, no. It is disadvantaged yes, like any other Government institution. Incomes are not there because we need to eat what we have killed.
We cannot give the Auditor-General everything that we have because it is the Auditor-General, no. We should look at that equitably; looking at the teachers, doctors and people who work in the agricultural sector. Whatever is going to be given to the Auditor-General must have a relationship with what we can afford as a Government but I am not saying we should not give them enough resources. Enough resources is not just salaries. There should be tools of trade. Do they have vehicles to do their visits, enough office accommodation and staff? I think that is where we should start. Incomes, surely if we were to single out just an individual department or group of people and pay them better than everybody else - I think we are creating a challenge for ourselves and we would appear as not serving our people equally.
So, the Auditor-General’s office should stick to the constitutional provisions. They should be independent and all they are exposing is good news for us. As Parliament, what are we doing? How are we reacting or acting on that information that we get from the Auditor-General? Are we making enough follow-ups to ensure that we defend our people from those who are corrupt within Government systems? Are we doing anything or those reports are just for our information? So as Parliament, I think we need to support. That is another resource that the Auditor-General would definitely want that as Parliament, we support their activities and here in Parliament, that is where budgets are allocated. We cannot cry now after the budget has already been passed.
We need to ensure them that when we do the 2022/23 Budget, we ensure that the Auditor-General is well financed but surely, to start crying now is not going to be helpful. My main call Mr. Speaker is to ensure that they are well resourced. We cannot talk about money paid to us even as Members of Parliament or teachers without relating it to the budget of the country, the income of the country. So, where do we get these huge figures that we are dreaming about? Yes, resources that make them work is what then extends to the incomes they get in relation to what the same professions are getting in the market; so be it.
Definitely, there is an Hon. Member who mentioned the issue of brain-drain; yes, it is subjective for me. We have so many educated people in Zimbabwe, very educated people in Zimbabwe and many people can take the same job but when somebody is doing a job, there is nothing wrong in that person being well remunerated but he cannot be remunerated because it is Hon. Togarepi or Hon. Nyathi. The same audit will tell us that you are over-paying these people when we compare with our pot.
So I really encourage that as we go forward, let us ensure that the budget for the Auditor-General’s office is enough to cover the very important job they are doing for this country. That is something that we should insist on as Parliament but again, let us be informed. We need equity in whatever we do. Someone will tell you that the judges who will deal with cases that come from the Auditor-General’s office need to be paid. The MPs who allocate the funds from the budget need to be paid, so everyone needs to be paid but tools of trade, number of employees at the Auditor-General’s office must be at their optimal. The computers they use must be the best in the market. They should have enough vehicles and everything that will help their job to be done efficiently should be availed.
Mr. Speaker, the Auditor-General’s office is critical and it is working well with our present push as a country. Our Government led by our President, Cde E.D. Mnangagwa is pushing to kill the animal or devil called corruption and our Auditor-General’s office is exposing that daily and what are we doing as Parliament to support what the Auditor-General’s office is doing? The Committee should really start devising more ways to deal with the audit results and see that when we allocate future funds, are they not going to fall in the hands of the same people who are corrupt or corrupt activities that have been identified by the Auditor are not repeated while we come here to mourn. What have we done as parliamentarians to deal with the issues that have been identified by the Auditor-General? I thank you.
(v)HON. MARKHAM: Hon. Speaker, I would just like to bring up and highlight some points. My first point is the issue of salaries. The whole issue of the Auditor-General’s report as put in front of us by the Chairman of the PAC, Hon. Dube, seconded by Hon. Mushoriwa states categorically that we should be putting one percent of the budget towards the Auditor-General’s office. One percent is a very balanced way of putting it because if it is a good and there is lots of revenue, one percent is one percent of lots of revenue. If it is very little revenue it is still one percent of very little but if it much than they are given at the moment, they cannot function with the current budget. They do not have tools of trade, they do not have the salary. We are a training ground of expatriates in our neighbouring countries when it comes to auditors. The biggest issue we have is the 1% which was mooted in this budget determination in December. All along we ask for 1% for the Auditor General’s office. The same happened a year before. I cannot remember one recommendation given by the House, any Parliamentarian’s recommendation, not one was taken in this budget. We have the one on $50 on the cell-phone, we have 30%, that was the issue of withholding tax and we have 1% for this office, and not one was taken on by the Ministry of Finance. This leads us to a problem. When we ask about the budget we try to ask you the history of last year’s budget. We have the Ministry of Agriculture overspending by 200%. We have the Ministry of Housing getting 17% of their allocated budget. What is the use of a budget if it is not going to be adhered to? What is the use of Parliament if we are not going to have oversight on the budget? We have this anomaly in our budget on unallocated reserve. That unallocated reserve is bigger than the budget and we in Parliament do nothing about it. It is absolutely essential if the Minister of Finance and the Government, if they are serious about corruption, they will fund the tool that has proved itself to highlight corruption and that is this office. By not funding it, it is quite obvious that you do not want to stop the corruption. I thank you.
HON. MOKONE: Thank you very much Mr. Speaker Sir. I am not going to be long, most of the issues that I wanted to highlight have been spoken by the Hon. Members who spoke before me. Let me start by thanking the Hon. Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee, Hon. B. Dube and the seconder of the report, Hon. Mushoriwa. The report that was presented before this House is very crucial. The Auditor General’s office is a crucial office in the country and the problems that Hon. B. Dube highlighted in his report are actually a cause of concern. They indicate that all is not well in our loved nation of Zimbabwe. If the office is not capacitated, then how do you expect the lower officers to be capacitated? It has to start with the Auditor General’s office, then it cascades down to the other offices.
What we are witnessing as a nation emanates from the problems that are in the Auditor General’ office. Basically all the departments in Zimbabwe are incapacitated. We see teachers complaining that they are incapacitated. We have seen nurses complaining that they are incapacitated. Generally, all the civil servants are incapacitated, including us the Members of Parliament and the Parliament staff.
Mr. Speaker, the report indicates that if the teachers are now opting to do the red cross nurse aid certificate – which is actually a shame to our country Zimbabwe, because this certificate will enable them to get a better job outside Zimbabwe; to become nurse aides outside Zimbabwe because of the situation that they are actually exposed to. Let me highlight that when someone goes to work, they expect a salary. They do not expect an incentive. You cannot incentivise someone that you are failing to pay. For instance, the teachers are saying that they can give them duty free certificates. If you give them the duty free certificates, where are they going to get the money to buy those cars?
Let me indicate that there is need to actually capacitate the office of the Auditor General and there is need to also raise their salaries and improve their conditions of service. In short, I just wanted to support the report and support the recommendations that they brought forward. I thank you.
HON. TOGAREPI: I move that the debate do now adjourn.
HON. R. R. NYATHI: I second.
Motion put and agreed to.
Debate to resume: Tuesday, 5th April, 2022.
On the motion of HON. TOGAREPI, seconded by HON. TEKESHE, the House adjourned at Twenty-Eight Minutes to Five O’clock p. m, until 5th April, 2022.