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By Shingirai Vambe

ESTABLISHED to provide technical and financial support to Parliaments in Southern Africa in their core functions of oversight, law making and representation, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) this Monday commended the work being done by the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Permanent Secretary.

The development comes following the release of a report by the committee and the Auditor General (AG) regarding the Covid-19 funds.
Committee Chairperson Brian Dube told The Post On Sunday that the Permanent Secretary, Simon Masanga is one of the few senior civil servants who has taken seriously the observations and recommendations from PAC and AG’s office.

Organized by the Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust (SAPST) in partnership with World Bank, the PAC held a workshop at a local hotel in Harare, where various issues regarding the use of public and donated funds in times of disasters is concerned. The workshop was on capacity building for the committee on the implementation of the action plan of the Auditor General’s and the Committee’s recommendations.

The use of donated and public funds from treasury has been topical since the coming in of the Second Republic.
Zimbabwe, struggled in the wake of natural disasters such as Cyclone Idai and the novel corona virus which ravaged the world and left global economies lingering on the edge.

Zimbabwe is one, amongst many countries, which suffered a major setback because of Covid-19. Ranked 157 out of 189 by transparency International on the list of least corrupt countries, the use of Covid-19 funds contributed to the country’s falling ranking. This followed revelations that some funds were misappropriated and diverted.

Covid-19 exposed government’s poor administrative mechanisms as cited in the PAC report. This was further confirmed by the Permanent Secretary that there were no systems in place, to monitor and or disburse adequate required resources which left loopholes for abuse.

The consultant who engaged Parliament, Local Government, Auditor General, Public Works, Dr Maseko, said there are a number of issues and gaps to be addressed as a way of ensuring that the nation is ready, should the nation experience such natural disasters in the future.

Maseko told delegates that on numerous occasions, procurement procedures were flouted as highlighted in the report.

“Because there were no systems in place for the ministry, no guidelines were provided for receiving donated goods, procurement and distribution of food, money and other goods which were made available.

Masanga however, said, because Covid-19 was not something that anyone anticipated, in some instances, decisions were made to cater for citizens who would have been delivered at quarantine and isolation centres late without proper and required amenities.

“On several occasions my staff had to take care, or ferry the sick to the hospital, Ministry of Health was slow to respond. Some of my members suffered Covid-19 as front-line workers as a result of contact with persons coming from across the borders,” Masanga said.

“During the period under review, we were short staffed, we had to hire students to assist in these facilities and in the disbursement of food and money to qualified candidates. In the report, varying figures of transport money was issued despite that the beneficiaries were traveling to the same destination because some came with their luggage while others had no luggage at all. The transport money was issued despite that this is the very same period when intercity traveling was banned and transport was charged taking advantage of the situation,” Masanga said.