State universities impress Auditor-General Mrs Chiri

Zvamaida Murwira-Senior Reporter

Auditor-General Mrs Mildred Chiri has commended State universities for appropriately utilising funds disbursed to them for Covid-19 research, saying most of them have accounted for the money used for the production of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs).

In her latest audit tabled before Parliament this week, Mrs Chiri said more needs to be done on other Government Ministries and departments where a number of irregularities were noted.

She noted that Great Zimbabwe University and Midlands State University received money for research and innovation towards eradication of Covid-19 and the audit noted that there was a large scale production of PPEs and chemical equipment.

“Money disbursed to State universities to support Covid-19 research was fully utilised and accounted for at the time of the audit,” she said. 

“Great Zimbabwe University (GZU) received $1 million for research in innovations towards treatment and eradication of the Covid-19 pandemic and made a further capital contribution of $20 778 752 from university resources towards the research project. 

“GZU had produced 41 440 litres of hand sanitisers 53 512 washable face masks, 498 medical gowns, 109 work suits and 155 trench coats among other protective clothing, as at November 30, 2020. The major customer for the protective clothing and hand sanitisers was NatPharm.

“Midlands State University received a total disbursement of $23 131 511 from the Ministries of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development and Health and Child Care for the production of sanitisers, face masks and printing of Covid-19 awareness material. 

“The whole amount disbursed had been fully utilised as at the time of audit. MSU had an established chemical manufacturing division operating in the Gweru Industrial area doing large scale production of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and commercially supplying various Government Departments and the private sector.”

With regard to other State entities, Ms Chiri said there were clear control weaknesses identified in most of the visited provinces relating to the ordering, delivery, invoicing and payment of goods and services. 

“Inadequate record keeping was a common feature across the ministries, departments and agencies who did not always have updated or reliable information on donations and how they were distributed, goods and services delivered and reports on the implementation status of Government initiatives to fight the pandemic,” said Ms Chiri in a press statement released yesterday.

“The lack of validation, integration and sharing of data and outdated or incorrect information across Government platforms resulted in some beneficiaries, including Government officials, receiving Covid-19 relief disbursements they might not have been entitled. 

“This defeated the purpose of the disbursements as the intended beneficiaries could have been deprived of the assistance.”

Mrs Chiri said the inability to coordinate and oversee complementary efforts by multiple Government departments and agencies and in managing the usage of $1 980 876 disbursed for funding of frontline workers and public sector investment projects such as the provision of clean water, ablution facilities, quarantine and isolation services and other services necessary in the fight against Covid-19 affected the timeous take off of these projects. 

“The disbursement of $89 022 103 worth of Covid-19 allowances by the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Head Office to SMEs whose businesses were forced to close due to measures put in place to minimise the spread of Covid-19, food insecure households, people with disabilities, the elderly, chronically ill persons and child-headed households from May 19, 2020 to December 12, 2020 failed to achieve intended results due to various reasons which include unreliable databases, duplicate payments to beneficiaries and the payment to beneficiaries with fictitious particulars,” she said.

“There was neither a follow up nor feedback mechanism to verify if the allowances had reached the intended beneficiaries despite evidence that in some instances, the mobile money service provider issued two lines to the same person, some of the lines were not uploaded with the allowances and the presence of piles of uncollected sim cards at district and provincial offices.”

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