Time to act on Chiri’s reports

LONDON - No society is perfect. Even the strident critics of Zimbabwe under the Zanu PF regime do not and cannot claim infallibility.

America, Britain, Australia, Canada — you name them, are imperfect in all spheres of life, political or social.

In the US, we can retreat as far as the Watergate scandal.

Of late, white policemen have been gunning down predominantly black men in what appears to be racially-motivated killings.

In Britain, a whimsical DJ and prominent TV personality, Jimmy Savile and other olden-day celebrities, abused children since the 60s.

About six years ago, British MPs were caught up in what is known as the “expenses scandal” — arising from undeserved monetary claims by the parliamentarians.

These few examples illustrate a miniscule of numerous misdemeanours in Western societies.

Zanu PF and its media highlight these prominently, and justifiably so, but only insofar as it shows that flaws are not peculiar to Zimbabwean society.

It does not amount to an acceptable defence, however, to say because the other person kills, it is also fine to murder. The imperfections of the “enemy” should not give us the comfort to perpetuate behaviour that is ordinarily unacceptable.

While imperfection is universal, it is the reticence to account for decadence, that now appears systemic, that has set us apart from Western polities.

President Richard Nixon resigned after the Watergate scandal; trigger-happy white police officers targeting blacks have been arrested.

Savile died before his crimes were unearthed but fellow celebrities of his time, now quite old, have still been jailed for the historic sex offences against children. Similarly, British MPs have faced retributive action for the expenses scandal.

These societies, therefore, are not any more perfect than we are.

While just as imperfect as Western societies, the tragedy of post-colonial societies, however, is that we have failed to entrench a robust culture of accountability.

It is this reluctance to punish in the wake of what should be intolerable conduct that has made us appear primordial societies.

Abduction, murder and corruption do not seem to attract sufficient opprobrium to catalyse retributive action.

Perpetrators in the Willowgate scandal received only slaps on the wrists. Those involved in subsequent scandals went scot-free.

Known murderers of Talent Mabika and Tichaona Chiminya roam the streets without a care in the world.

To the people south of the country, Gukurahundi remains an open wound. Itai Dzamara’s fate remains unknown in the face of appalling police lethargy.

As postcolonial societies we have fallen short on accounting for decadent behaviour. As Africans, we cannot continue to be comfortable with low standards that, to outsiders, now form part of our identity.

As long as the moral and political will exists, it is not beyond our capacity to assume an identity that intrinsically opposes bad conduct.

For as long as I can remember, the office of the Auditor-General has released adverse report after another on government practice.

Mildred Chiri has been diligent in exposing government infractions.

But, because we have failed to embed a culture of accountability, her reports have become ordinary annual announcements.

In her latest report (2014), the Auditor-General audited 27 ministries and found that 13 (48 percent) were not reconciling differences in figures in the sub-paymaster general accounts and the public finance management system.

Due to weak internal control environments, some ministries lost amounts ranging from $23 634 to $204 441 through fraudulent activities.

It is obvious that there are individuals responsible for this recurrent malfeasance, who have been drawing comfort from the fact that nothing will be done to them.

This should not be allowed to continue. Nothing separates us from the equally imperfect West apart from our disinclination to combat rot when excavated.

It is time to act on the Auditor-General’s reports.

Unless authorities are prepared to act, the Auditor-General’s office might as well be shut down because it will not be serving its intended purpose.

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