HARARE – Zimbabwe’s Auditor General’s office has been rated by the World Bank among several national audit offices with a substantial degree of independence in carrying out its mandate without undue interference.
The country’s AG office has unearthed some of the major public finance scandals in recent years despite being hampered by poor funding and challenges in accessing some key financial documents.
The World Bank’s Supreme audit institutions independence index: global synthesis report 2021 studied 119 Supreme Audit Institutions (SAI) across the world, assessing whether they met independence indicators based on international standards and practices which include financial, mandate, coverage, and operational dimensions.
The countries’ supreme audit institutions were put into 5 grades of measuring their independence- Very high with a score of 10, High (9.0-9.5), Substantial (8.0 – 8.5), Moderate (6.0 – 7.5) and Low (0 -5.5).
Zimbabwe, together with 32 other countries including India, Costa Rica, Albania, Botswana and Kenya met several of the independence indicators and was ranked “substantial.”
The findings from the global assessment show that only 2 countries (South Africa and Sychelles) scored 10 and were assessed as having very high independence; 17 countries had high independence; 33 countries had substantial independence; 37 countries had moderate independence, and 29 countries had low independence.
Only about 50 percent of SAIs undertook all three types of audits –financial, compliance, and performance — often due to limitations in resources and technical capacity.
“Government auditing is critical to provide an objective assessment of government programs, policies, operations, and results to detect whether public resources are managed responsibly and to instill confidence among citizens and stakeholders,” said the World Bank.
The 1977 Lima Declaration stated that a Supreme Audit Institutions must be fully independent, and that this independence must be anchored in legislation with the necessary legal security to prevent political interference.
“It is only with full independence that SAIs can fulfill their mandate to reduce waste and the abuse of public resources, and ensure that more money is available for programs that fight poverty, which lies at the core of the World Bank’s mission,” said the Bank.
Zimbabwe’s AG office has been widely commended for continuing to expose financial impropriety, mismanagement, failure to follow laid down tender procedures in Government ministries, parastatals and local authorities despite operating on a shoe-string budget.
Last year, Parliamentarians called for the Auditor-General’s Office to be adequately resourced, arguing that failure to do so would undermine Government’s thrust to fight corruption and promote good corporate governance in State entities.