By Mrs Mildred Chiri, Auditor-General of Zimbabwe
Until 2010, the annual audit report of the Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) comprised of individual entities’ financial statements together with appended qualifications, if any. A survey administered to stakeholders showed discontent with the types of reports issued. The general consensus was that the audit reports were not very informative and were too technical for them to appreciate. In order to manage this expectation gap, the OAG decided to change the format of reporting.
While stakeholders expected an entity that had an unmodified/clean opinion to be doing very well in fulfilling its mandate, this was not always the case. For example, some local authorities that got unmodified opinions failed to provide adequate water supplies, waste management services and proper maintenance roads. According to the stakeholders, especially members of Parliament there was a marked disconnect between the report qualification received by government entities and the performance results they showed.
It was agreed that the financial statements would be featured in the Accountant-General’s annual report whilst the Auditor-General’s annual report would consist of significant observations contained in the management letters of the various auditees. In addition, contracted auditors who conducted audits of local authorities, parastatals and state-owned enterprises were advised and consented through contracts they signed with the Auditor-General, to carry out audits on service delivery also known as audit on wider mandate issues. Fascinatingly, these audits rouse the interest of most stakeholders as most public enterprises are set up to deliver certain services to the public such as water reticulation and power generation as opposed to making profits. Some of the contracted auditors are now heeding this call by the OAG while others are lagging in their attempt to address this area. My annual report now comprises significant findings of my audits and those of contracted auditors.
As a result of this change of format in reporting, the annual Auditor-General’s report is now very popular and is eagerly awaited. The annual report features corporate governance issues, procurement, asset management, payroll costs among other issues. The stakeholders are now finding the Auditor-General’s report to be very informative and comprehensive.
The reports are basically very narrative and easy to understand by the stakeholders. As a result, we have seen a lot of coverage of the OAG’s reports by the media. In turn, the stakeholders are calling for the implementation of the Auditor-General’s recommendations. In our subsequent audits, we have noticed some improvement in the implementation of our recommendations, thus enhancing accountability and transparency.
In addition to the foregoing, the OAG’s annual reports are now up to date. The financial year end for the public sector in Zimbabwe is December 31st and audits must be completed and published in the annual audit report within six months of the end of the financial year. My SAI has been meeting this deadline for the past three years. So our findings and reports are very current and relevant. This has increased the visibility and awareness of the SAI and its functions.