Corruption threatens economic revival

-Zim loses up to USD3bln to corruption annually
-Gvt departments conceal information

Chris Mahove

The scourge of corruption has become so rampant in the country and is threatening to derail efforts by the Second Republic to attain the status of an Upper Middle Income Economy by 2030, with the country estimated to be losing up to USD3 billion annually to the vice.

When he assumed office in 2018, President Emmerson Mnangagwa made the fight against corruption one of his top priorities, declaring zero tolerance to the vice.

Since the inception of the Second Republic, a number of corruption cases have been investigated by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, including high profile cases involving senior government officials.

Although latest figures could not be immediately available from the anti-graft body, records show that in 2018 alone, 400 cases came under investigation from ZACC with high profile cases related to criminal abuse of office featuring prominently.

Of these, several convictions were secured although there was an outcry from some quarters that not many cases had been timeously finalized.

And on July 11, 2020, President Mnangagwa launched the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) in fulfillment of Article Five of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). The NACS has  six strategic objectives and actions incorporate the five pillars of UNCAC, which are preventive measures, criminalisation and law enforcement, international co-operation, asset recovery, and technical assistance and information exchange.

According to ZACC spokesperson, John Makamure, NACS was developed after the realization that corruption was still thriving despite the country having an advanced Constitution which established multiple institutions to fight corruption and provided for a comprehensive framework for creating good governance and a high standard of ethics and integrity in the public service and regulated public financial management and procurement, among other things.

He said at the launch of the NACS that it served as a joint declaration against corruption in any form and heralded a resolute commitment to an ethical and accountable State, and clean governance in business and civil society sectors and also signaled a commitment by those in positions of power to act with integrity, while inculcating a society where citizens were aware of their rights and responsibilities, respect the rule of law and are empowered to hold those in power to account.

However, concerns have been raised over the integrity of the Commission after a report by the Auditor General, Mildred Chiri this year revealed gross corruption at the anti-graft body where it was said to have failed to account for more than US$5 million it received over the past four years.

The anti-graft body has also been labelled as a toothless bulldog which had developed a ‘catch and release’ culture where alleged perpetrators were at the end of the day, never made to pay for their deeds.

Just last week, the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) steering committee third quarter meeting revealed that line ministries and government departments were not cooperating on investigations and were deliberately delaying the submission of procedures in corruption cases.

According to the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) corruption was pushing pressure on economic indicators and as a result, fueling inequality, poverty and in the process derailing development outcomes.

In a statement to mark the International Anti-Corruption Day, ZIMCODD said although the Second Republic had made commitments to meaningfully reduce graft, the vice persisted because public officials lacked integrity and there was rampant impunity and corporate greed, adding that 82 percent of government spending was fraught with irregularities.

 “In Zimbabwe, graft and impunity have worsened the plight of citizens to a level where hospitals have no supplies, education is a preserve of the rich, Illicit Financial Flows are high, the debt stock is rising and we are falling back on Sustainable Development Goals.

Economist Prosper Chitambara said while it was difficult to come up with the exact monetary cost of graft in the country, it was estimated that the country could be losing up to USD3 billion every year.

“It is difficult to come up with figures, but there are estimates that indicate that Zimbabwe could be losing between USD1, 5 billion and up to USD3 billion through illicit financial flows.  So those are the statistics that I have seen. So smuggling of minerals will probably account for a greater part of that; that is very prevalent and very rampant in the country,” he said.

The Zimbabwe Women Against Corruption Trust last week expressed concern that corruption remained a major barrier for development and had surprisingly become part of everyday life both in private and public sectors.

“Corruption remains an obstacle to the achievement of sustainable development goals. It leads to weak institutions and deprives people from accessing basic services such as healthcare, education, water and sanitation,” the Trust said in a statement to mark International Anti-Corruption day.

ZWACT said the fight against corruption required a collective approach with collaborative efforts from government, civil society organizations, and the private sector which entail working closely together with the same goal of ending corruption without necessarily competing.

“In addition, government and the private sector should come up with preventative measures of corruption such as employment creation and improving living standards of workers. We have to acknowledge the essential role played by journalists in exposing corruption. Their role can never be under estimated as they risk it all to make sure that corruption stories are reported, not only in the country but to the world,” ZWACT said.

ZIMCODD, however, pointed out that for the war against corruption to be successful, there was need for the capacitation of key anti-graft institutions and Parliament.

“Government should capacitate key accountability institutions such as Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, the National Prosecuting Authority and the Office of the Auditor-General. These have a bearing on the economy and Ease of Doing Business rating,” it said.

It also called for the breaking of cartels that have captured the state and allow the law to be applied without fear of favour.

“Here, civil society has a responsibility to demand transparency and accountability from public office while raising awareness to the cartels. Further, lifestyle audits on public officials will reveal those benefitting from bribes in civil service,” ZIMCODD said.

The Corruption Perceptions Index, published by the non-profit organisation Transparency International, ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption. The report reveals that most countries have made little to no progress in tackling corruption over the last decade.

According to Transparency International corruption can take many forms while public sector corruption involves public servants demanding or taking money or favours in exchange for services, politicians misusing public money or granting public jobs or contracts to their sponsors, friends and families and corporates bribing officials to get lucrative deals among others.

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