Pilferage, lethargy, lack of proper coordination and systematic corruption- all sums up the Special Audit Report of the Auditor-General on the handling of Cyclone Idai donations and assistance to victims in Manicaland and Masvingo provinces by the Civil Protection Unit (CPU), 263Chat can reveal.
Cyclone Idai struck on March 15, 2019 marking the worst natural disaster to ever hit the country in recorded history but it also exposed the country's inexperience in handling disasters of such magnitude and failure to rein in systematic corruption in public offices as the report shows.
According to the Auditor-General Mildred Chiri, there were instances when donated goods and foods were left to expire while stored at warehouses despite many victims in dire need of these goods.
"During a stock count exercise on September 14, 2019, I observed that a total of 33 403kg of goods at Machongwe Forward Distribution Centre (FDC) had expired. Furthermore, the food items were exposed to high levels of moisture as they were stored on the floor without pallets,"
"On the other hand, Chipinge District Civil Protection Committee also received expired food items from the province which they later destroyed on August 21, 2019. I was concerned that the relief items expired whilst in the warehouse before being distributed to the affected people. It was also revealed from interviews held at the camps that beneficiaries had received expired mealie meal and flour on various occasions," she said in the report.
In some instances the AG noted poor accounting procedures on the part of officers involved which made it difficult to trace if donations reached their intended recipients since there were no detailed dispatch documents and receiving registers for audit trail.
"I observed that no proper records for relief items received and disbursed were maintained. There was no uniformity in accounting for donations from Manyame Airbase to Manicaland and Masvingo Provinces as there were no detailed dispatch documents and receiving registers for audit trail,"
"No proper ledgers were maintained in the warehouses or districts to enable audit trail of donations made. This resulted in eleven (11) pilferage cases reported in Chimanimani and Chipinge which had been purportedly done by individuals who were charged with responsibility to bring relief items to affected persons," reads the report.
Another serious concern, was the slow utilization of donated funds during this difficult period for survivors despite Treasury having disbursed RTGS$1 972 758, USD3 033 449 and 20 000 000 Rands.
From an examination of expenditure documents and bank statements there were funds which had been received but had not been utilized despite having been received as far back as sixty (60) days before, yet the affected Provinces were not able to do their work due to financial challenges.
"For example, there were work stoppages on road works due to non-payment of contractors by the Department of Roads and PDC Manicaland was in need of RTGS$15 000 000 as reflected in their report dated June 3, 2019, but as at August 30, 2019 they had received only RTGS$5 160 000 from the same," it said.
Corruption was rampant when it came to fuel invoices by personnel assisting victims with the report revealing that some vehicles would travel need 1 liter of petrol to travel just 1.3 kilometer.
"I noted that the distances travelled by some vehicles were not commensurate with fuel drawn. From the analysis of information provided, some vehicles travelled as low as 1.3 kilometres with a litre of fuel. In addition, some drivers did not indicate the fuel drawn on their log sheets, hence I could not determine the fuel consumed by those vehicles,"
"Also requests for diesel amounting to 2191 litres were issued from the Manicaland Provincial Development Coordinator's office authorizing various vehicles to draw fuel from CMED, without information such as estimated mileage that the vehicle was supposed to travel, vehicle registration number, destination and request number," reads the report.
There were no contract documents for vehicles that were hired to do works in Manicaland province and this meant that there were no agreed rates to be used for payment of transport services rendered, no agreement on whether idle time would be paid for or not, no agreement on what the government would do in cases of accidents or breakdown of vehicles during performance of cyclone duties.
"I could therefore not evaluate whether value for money was achieved or whether agreed terms with the said transporters were adhered to in the absence of written contract," said the AG.
Also, various stock items were received at Chimanimani District Pharmacy from Provincial Medical Director-Manicaland on August 26, 2019 on issue voucher 493837H-493840H.
However, at the time of conducting a stock count on September 15, 2019, the AG noted that the hospital did not receive some of the drugs which were listed on the issue voucher.
"I observed that the Manicaland Provincial Medical Stores received 521 bottles of Flu stop capsules on March 21, 2019 which had an expiry date of June 2019. Out of the 521 bottles only 283 bottles were disbursed. The remaining 238 bottles expired in stock at the provincial office. Maybe if they had been distributed to districts, more bottles could have been utilized. As at the date of audit on September 5, 2019 they were still in stock,"
It also noted that contrary to the provisions of Section 81(2) (b)(iii) of the Public Finance Management Act [Chapter 22:19] read with Treasury Instructions, Civil Protection Unit Manicaland Province processed payments amounting to RTGS$1 422 751 for goods and services without adequate supporting documents.
"This was caused by the absence of supervision in the processing of expenditure. Therefore, I was not able to evaluate whether economy was exercised in the procurement of the same,"
"I noted from documentary review that one thousand and thirteen (1013) civil servants and four hundred and ten (410) uniformed forces including youth officers who worked at various stations during the period March 16, to August 31, 2019 did not receive their outstanding allowances.,"
"There were a total of 32 174 days and 7 097 days which needed to be paid respectively. However, the Human Resources subcommittee did not have the registers for these staff members to verify if indeed they worked under cyclone Idai. On the other hand, the return submitted for audit did not reflect where the officers were stationed. I was therefore not able to authenticate the accuracy and completeness of the outstanding travel and subsistence allowances," said the report.
As part of the recommendations, the AG urged Chimanimani District Pharmacy to institute investigations on discrepancies of drugs delivered under issue voucher 493837H-493840H.
In order to avert the sad situation of goods expiring while stored in warehouses, the AG said, "The District Civil Protection Committee should ensure that there is proper planning, training in stores management and needs assessment done in order for relief items received to be distributed whilst they are still suitable for consumption,"
"There should be a guideline on fuel consumption to assist the officer responsible for refueling of hired motor vehicles. Also the Provincial Development's Office should ensure that no requisitions are authorized to draw fuel without this critical information," she added.