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Rot at Zimbabwe public hospitals exposed

by Staff reporter
28 Jun 2017 at 14:11hrs | Views
The Auditor-General has unravelled shocking levels of official corruption at government hospitals where public funds are not being properly accounted for at a time when patients are failing to access basic drugs due to resource constraints.

In a report tabled in the National Assembly last week, the Auditor-General, Mildred Chiri, revealed that the little revenue flowing into public hospitals from Treasury and fees is not being adequately accounted for, yet very little is being done to arrest the situation.

For instance, over 100 000 litres of fuel worth $124 000 could not be accounted for in the period covered by the audit.

Karoi District Hospital failed to account for 71 842 litres of fuel worth $86 210, while the provincial medical directors' office in Mashonaland West could not account for 4 900 litres valued at $5 948.

It was the same situation at the provincial medical directors' office in Masvingo where 872 litres worth $1 046 could not be account for and at Masvingo Provincial Hospital, which could not explain how 3 912 litres worth $5 454 was used.

At Mutare and Gweru provincial hospitals, authorities could not account for 17 090 litres worth $21 609 and 3 370 litres valued at $4 522, respectively.

This was caused by weaknesses in internal control systems in the management of fuel, amid fears that the resource could have been diverted for personal use.

"If fuel records are not properly maintained, there is room for fuel stocks being converted to personal use given that fuel is an attractive commodity," reads part of the report.

"Management of health institutions should ensure that all fuel received from suppliers is recorded in the fuel registers on receipt and issues should also be recorded. Physical checks on fuel stocks should be carried out regularly."

In their responses, management said they would implement Chiri's recommendations.

This comes as the ministry of Health and Child Care is demanding back fuel used during President Robert Mugabe's 93rd birthday celebrations.

In a letter to the director of health services at Zanu-PF headquarters, one C Chizema, dated February 27, Health and Child Care permanent secretary Gerald Gwinji made startling revelations that his ministry gave the ruling party 320 litres worth of fuel coupons for Mugabe's birthday bash held in Matobo.

Only 100 litres have been reimbursed by the party.

Asked to clarify the donation, Gwinji told the Daily News that the ministry gave Zanu-PF an ambulance and fuel to use during the birthday celebrations on the understanding that they would pay back the fuel.

Zanu-PF has always faced criticism of abusing State institutions to fund its programmes.

And yet most hospitals and clinics in rural areas do not have fuel for their ambulances, resulting in patients being ferried in wheelbarrows or scotch-carts.

The Auditor-General's report also revealed that property, plant and equipment at Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo, was not insured, while motor vehicles were not registered in the hospital's name.

"Significant losses may be incurred by the hospital in the event of insurable disasters occurring. Motor vehicles should be registered in the name of the hospital," Chiri said.

"Management should ensure that all or some of the hospital's assets, including motor vehicles, based on some systematic risk assessment process are insured."

She said Mpilo Hospital paid $1 800 to a certain company in October 2013 for the supply of computers, which are still to be delivered.

"In addition, another company was contracted to improve the radio therapy unit at a cost of $206 000, of which $35 000 was paid out as a down payment during 2013. However, the company had not provided any services to the hospital by the time the audit was completed," she noted.

In their response, Mpilo management said they would ensure the cars were registered in the hospital's name.

"Admittedly, most government assets are not insured as it has not been a standard practice before. However, there is no harm in adopting the recommended position, funds permitting. In addition to the above, efforts are underway to ensure that all vehicles are registered in the hospital's name," they said.

Chiri went on to note weaknesses in the management and bookkeeping systems at the hospital, which she said would result in loss of revenue.

"I noted some significant weakness in the inventories management system. I could not therefore obtain audit evidence to ascertain the accuracy of the inventories' unit costs used to compile the stock valuation report as at December 31, 2013.

"Prior period financial statements were not audited. I was not able to ascertain if opening balances for 2013 were not materially misstated through alternative procedures.

"I could not verify several payments amounting to $391 061 and $57 356 made during the years 2013 and 2014 respectively. These payments were classified as capital work in progress on the Radiotherapy Unit due to the lack of supporting documents.

"I could not also verify several transactions relating to goods purchased during the year 2014 amounting to $130 228, due to lack of supporting documents."

She also noted significant weaknesses in the hospital's billing system "and I could not satisfy myself as to the accuracy, valuation and completeness of revenues and trade receivables".

As such, revenues and trade receivables may be materially misstated in the financial statements.

Other hospitals, including Mutare and Masvingo provincial hospitals, were also accused of incurring accommodation expenditure without approval from the Health Services Board (HSB).

Due to lack of clear policy direction, administrators at Mutare Provincial Hospital incurred total expenditure of $45 975 (2014: $57 411) for rented accommodation for medical doctors.

The expenditure was incurred without the authority from the HSB and Treasury's concurrence.

"This was in violation of Section 4 (10) of the Health Services Fund Manual. I made the same observation that related to Masvingo Provincial Hospital on page 291 of my report for the year ended December 31, 2015," reads part of the report.

"Further to the above, there was confirmed lack of consistency in the ministry's health institutions on payment of accommodation allowances for doctors. Out of seven health institutions visited, six were not paying the allowance."

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