BY PRIVELEDGE GUMBODETE
ZIMBABWE’S Auditor-General Mildred Chiri has reversed a decision to stop naming entities and individuals, including politicians involved in corruption in her annual reports to avoid legal action.
Chiri told Parliament’s powerful Public Accounts Committee (PAC) last year that her office had stopped naming individuals and companies involved in corruption in her annual report to allegedly avoid litigation.
The decision was roundly condemned by anti-corruption watchdogs, who said shielding the culprits breeds a culture of immunity.
There were reports that the AG’s office had succumbed to political pressure from some quarters in government after the exposure of shady deals involving bigwigs. But Chiri last Wednesday made an about-turn saying her office will resume naming and shaming corrupt individuals.
“After discussions and debating together with Parliament we concluded that we should have these names out and people who do business with the government should realise that they are exposing themselves to public scrutiny.
“So if there is anything that goes amiss with their contracts with their services they can be displayed in the public domain and so we are reverting to naming people who do not deliver with regards to government business,” Chiri told journalists in Nyanga.
Former PAC chairperson and Harare East chairperson Tendai Biti said Chiri faced litigation for not exposing corrupt individuals.
“She was wrong succumbing to political pressure, but if she has recanted that’s good,” Biti said.
“An auditor just takes pictures and reports on what the issues are.
“If she has taken that position I am glad because I know certain quotas and certain civil organisations that were going to take her to court.”
Transparency International Zimbabwe executive director Tafadzwa Chikumbu said Chiri’s decision not to disclose names of corrupt entities and individuals weakened the fight against corruption.
“Anyone who benefits from public funds in the form of public procurement that information should be made available because by virtue of being public resources we have the right to know what transpired with regards to how much was paid or is supposed to be delivered. Denying citizens that information is an injustice,” Chikumbu said.
“We have seen the companies and individuals being brought before Parliament so if those names are withheld from the public how does Parliament hold these companies or individuals to account.
“So the restoration of the old arrangement is positive in the fight against corruption.
“In fighting corruption, we are not just concerned about companies.
“We are actually more concerned about the owners of those companies.
“In most cases, people who benefit from government tenders are politically connected and without disclosing this information, especially in terms of judicial ownership the fight against corruption would be less fatal.”
When contacted for comment Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission spokesperson John Makamure said he was on holiday.
Chiri last year told Parliament that her office had stopped naming and shaming companies to minimise potential litigation from private firms.
Her reports have exposed massive corruption including unsupported expenditure, appropriation accounts variances, uncollected revenue, missing documents, inadequate oversight of their audit committee, operating without procurement committees, and non-delivery of vehicles despite payment.