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Mr Speaker, Sir

A Constitution is nothing but just an ordinary document when its provisions are flouted at will by those who are supposed to abide by them.The current home-grown supreme law of the land was received with great joy when it passed at the referendum as Zimbabweans from all walks of life believed finally the country could chart its way forward based on the Constitution that originated from the people.

Just like any other Constitution, it covered every area of life from the founding principles, national objectives, public administration and institutions to combat corruption and crime among others.

Mr Speaker Sir, the reason millions of Zimbabweans troop to polling stations on elections day to choose who makes it to Parliament is because they want those officials to protect the Constitution.

They certainly do not elect them to build schools and construct roads, as some would want to believe.

The test of a democracy is in the existence of a thriving Parliament whose terms of reference border on putting the electorate first and holding the executive accountable.

One of the main areas of holding the executive accountable touches on corporate governance and use of public funds.

It is therefore disturbing that the current audit report of Government ministries by the Auditor-General has revealed aerse reports on 22 ministries for poor corporate governance, abuse of fund accounts, flouting procurement procedures among other ills.

Mr Speaker Sir, the auditor-general reports to parliamentarians as people’s representatives so that they can take action where laws are breached.

Almost every year, the auditor-general raises poor corporate governance and misappropriation of public funds by ministries and Government parastatals and enterprises yet nothing happens to the offenders.

The auditor-general’s role ends with raising a red flag when necessary and giving recommendations.

From then on, it is MPs’ role to make sure they hold the executive and State parastatals and enterprises accountable based on the findings of the auditor-general.

What’s the use in having that office if its findings have no effect at the end of the day?

Why does the State continue pumping money funding such audits whose findings never get the adequate attention of legislators?

The Constitution has set the tone on the management of public funds where it makes it clear that those who do not follow the law would pay the price.

Section 308 (1) and (2) call on officials responsible for expenditure of public funds and those in control of public property to ensure public funds are safeguarded and spent on legally authorised purposes and amounts and to safeguard the property to ensure it’s not lost, destroyed, damaged or misused.

Subsection (4) states: “An Act of Parliament must provide for the speedy detection of breaches of Subsections (2) and (3) and the disciplining and punishment of persons responsible for any such breaches and, where appropriate, the recovery of misappropriated funds or property.”

It is crystal clear from this provision, Mr Speaker Sir, that accounting officers-permanent secretaries and heads of Government parastatals and enterprises must be held accountable for misappropriation of funds and properties by paying from their pockets.

The demand therefore is that after disciplining those responsible, the next step is to recover the money and property.

This is where MPs must come in, in the same manner the Economic Freedom Fighters of South Africa have put President Jacob Zuma under serious pressure demanding that he pays back money used to improve security at his private home.

There is serious need for the Government to get tough on financial mismanagement and indiscipline in ministries and parastatals.

The auditor-general has consistently unearthed massive financial irregularities and misappropriation of public funds and properties by Government ministries and departments yet not much has been done to clamp down on such indiscipline.

In her executive summary for Government ministries 2013 audit report, Ms Chiri said: “Having obtained sufficient appropriate audit evidence, most of the audit conclusions noted misstatements, material to the accounts.

“At least 31 ministries out of 33, about 94 percent, had material audit findings warranting management’s attention. As such 22, about 67 percent of the ministries had qualified (aerse) audit opinions on their appropriation accounts,” reads the executive summary prepared by Ms Chiri.

“One of the ministries had a disclaimer of opinion. Out of the 10 ministries with unqualified (non-aerse) audit opinions, either had other material issues reported on. There were 19 fund accounts out of 40 audited had modified (qualified, disclaimer or aerse) audit opinions.”

Mr Speaker Sir, the report is almost predictable because the auditor-general’s office has continued to raise the red flag despite the reluctance by MPs to take the bull by its horns demanding action against those behind misappropriation of public funds.

It is unfortunate that Zimbabweans are slowly losing confidence in their representatives protecting the Constitution by failing to put mechanisms in place to rein-in defiant officials.

The fact that the auditor-general has continued to unearth irregularities in ministries and government departments despite the existence of Section 308 calls for urgent alignment of existing laws to the Constitution particularly in addressing financial management and corporate governance.

For the Constitution to make sense to Zimbabweans, every citizen and official must respect and abide by its provision regardless of their position in society.

Source : The Herald

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