Patrick Chinamasa has totally failed to run the ministry of finance and economic development, which has become a haven of corruption, mismanagement and abuse of public funds, a Now Daily investigation has found.
As a result of Chinamasa’s alleged corruption and ineptitude, government finances are in doldrums, with the state failing to pay its workers and being forced to pay millions of dollars in interest charges and legal costs after being sued by creditors. Traditional donors, lenders and joint venture partners, including the Chinese government , have taken the gap to protect their interests after it emerged their investments were going down the drain under Chinamasa’s watch.
The minister, accused by aides of being always high on whiskey, continuously blames Western sanctions for his failure to perform but this has been dismissed by analysts who point to his own corruption and failure to mobilize the available resources to move the country forward. Chinamasa attracted the wrath of fellow ministers after he embarked on massive improvements to his Borrowdale home soon after being appointed finance minister, with many questioning his sudden source of big money.
Economists blame Chinamasa for failing to act against corrupt officials in his own office and across government ministries and state enterprises whose finances he is supposed to supervise.
“Chinamasa is corrupt himself. He is a major beneficiary of the highly tainted farm inputs scheme where government has lost billions of dollars. He is involved in the looting of the Marange diamonds and illegal takeovers of white-owned farms like Kondozi. ‘Send a thief to catch a thief’ doesn’t work here. Zimbabwe needs a more honest and sober person to manage its finances, not someone of questionable character like Chinamasa,” said John Swift, chief economist of the Africa Economic Intelligence Network based in Johannesburg. “The auditor-general has presented numerous volumes of evidence of theft of government money but the minister has done nothing about it. The only arrests that we have seen are those of officials who are too junior to have any impact on the overall situation. In fact these arrests are just a smokescreen to cover the billions that have been stolen by Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF.”
According to auditor-general Mildred Chiri’s latest reports, presented to Chinamasa in July 2015, corruption is rife in the ministry of finance. Wayward officials are flouting procedures in order to confuse the situation and cover their tracks, including by making payments directly to suppliers instead of channelling the money through ministries. In several cases government records were destroyed but the offenders were not penalized.
“Some ministry (of finance) officials are alleged to have connived with suppliers and third parties and defrauded the government of substantial amounts of money,” Chiri said. “The information was brought to my attention by the Accounting Officer through his letter of February 23, 2015. A number of officials were suspended and investigations are in progress. Some of the cases are before the courts. The extent of the prejudice has not been established.”
Added Chiri: “The state may lose a lot of money if financial controls are not put in place. Direct payments on behalf of line Ministries are risky as Accounting Officers are divested of responsibility over their votes by Treasury.”
The finance ministry’s permanent secretary Willard Manungo, who is supposed to take legal action against corrupt officials on behalf of the minister, responded with typical arrogance.
“Financial controls are in place, including guidelines on the handling of public resources,” Manungo said in response to Chiri’s scathing report. “The misappropriation of funds amounting to US$729 345 occurred due to failure by officers concerned to comply with set guidelines. The case is being investigated to facilitate appropriate administrative action, in addition to processes that may arise from Police investigations into the matter.”
Chiri’s audit found numerous other instances of corruption and mismanagement in Chinamasa’s office. She stumbled upon evidence of blatant theft, where cash was abused by officials instead of being banked as required by government regulations.
Overall, government finances are reported to be in a shambles due to Chinamasa’s alleged failure to manage and many are calling for his dismissal.
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