EDITORIAL COMMENT: Auditor-General must not labour in vain

Ms Chiri

Ms Chiri

PARLIAMENT must act on the Auditor-General’s reports. The Auditor-General Mrs Mildred Chiri has been doing a sterling job to alert Parliament and therefore the authorities and the public in general as to how various Government institutions milked dry.

But it appears that is the end of the story.

No serious action is ever taken.

We do not know if the Auditor-General has issued orders for the exposed malpractice to be tackled and what the limits of her powers are.

We have previously written on the futility of exposing corruption in high places when nothing seems to happen thereafter. It must be frustrating indeed. When the media exposed many State-linked institutions as hubs of rot headed by overpaid and underperforming bureaucrats, only a few lost their jobs, even fewer faced any prosecution.

For the majority it was business as usual and the Auditor-General’s reports are mere ripples on the seas of self-enrichment at the expense of the people. The problem is that no one seems to have the desire needed to see the audit results through to their logical end such as the prosecution of criminals, a reprimand and or demotion of negligent officials which would in turn lead to the creation of systems to plug loopholes.

Police have gone on record to state that they will not act on media reports unless a formal complaint is lodged. Apparently the same attitude applies to matters discussed in Parliament.

Yet there are a number of cases when the police have launched investigations of possible crimes following tip-offs from informers and the public as well as media articles. Police have raided business premises where they suspect that illegal activities could be taking place.

But if the issue is about someone raising an official complaint, then we need legislation that allows an ordinary citizen to be a complainant in matters to do with public officials.

This is because the money being stolen belongs to the taxpayer with Government being the custodian. There are instances in which a person who is not directly involved can get the police to open a docket and investigate an alleged crime. To mind comes suspected cases of child abuse and domestic violence.

If all we lack in order to prosecute suspected public service criminals is a legitimate complainant then Parliament should step in with the necessary law to compel the police to act on the Auditor-General’s reports once the findings have been made public through presentation to Parliament.

But perhaps the biggest culprits are the parliamentary portfolio committees themselves whose members appear content with only getting reports but not pushing enough for remedial action. Yet legal sources indicate that Parliament is empowered to enforce the Auditor-General’s orders and to come up with appropriate action to deal with culprits such as reprimands or prosecution.

From Parliament the ball moves to the Prosecutor-General who then moves it to the court of the police.

We wonder if our honourable legislators are aware of the role that they must play to safeguard public coffers. Bearing in mind that there are several legal minds in both houses, we are stumped by the apparent apathy to act on the Auditor-General’s reports.

Why is the chief lawyer of the Government, the Attorney-General, not advising the responsible authorities on how to ensure accountability from public servants? The President has repeatedly said corruption is our number one enemy in both the party and Government.

But so long as those who represent us in the legislature are unwilling to enforce action, we can forget about issues of accountability in the use of public resources.

The Auditor-General seems to labour in vain.

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