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Fighting Corruption, Not For The Faint Hearted

By Shingirai Vambe

THE fight against corruption has gone a gear up as the country’s legislators from the African Parliamentarians Network Against Corruption (APNAC) engaged with various stakeholders this week in a drive towards ending corruption.

The forum was chaired by Norton Member of Parliament, Temba Mliswa, the committee invited board members and leaders of various institutions in Zimbabwe, delegates includes, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA), Procurement Regulatory Authority (PRAZ), Zimbabwe National Road Authority (ZINARA) to mention just a few.

Similar cases of abuse of office, poverty and systems were raised by delegates who participated in the two -day workshop. Top on the list; remuneration was cited as a key driver to corruption in Zimbabwe.

The southern African country is currently in a dire situation with medical practitioners issuing official statements to down tools as their salaries, which are pegged in ZWL currency have been eroded by inflation, with the highest paid civil servant receiving not more than ZWL $60 000 equivalent to US $100.00 on the parallel market, which is accessible to the generality of the population.

Despite efforts by Government and Parliament to fight corruption through its key function of oversight, the majority of parastatals have had several issues with the Public Accounts Committee the Auditor General (AG) and other Parliamentary committees which saw and produced reports with clear evidence of abuse of offices and misappropriation of funds.

With the Auditor General, Mildred Chiri raising the red flag in most parastatals, no corrective measures have been taken. In cases where the issues came before the courts, the cases have taken years, far from closing, and the public is losing interest. At times, there has been cited to be lack of enough evidence which has resulted in a catch and release.

ZINARA board Chairman, George Manyaya told delegates in Bulawayo last week that their institution is now back on track, implementing recommendations by both Parliament and AG.

Manyaya said ZINARA has removed all those who did not qualify to serve the organization through skills audit, plugged all loopholes such as packages which included hair salon and gym allowances which ZINARA was giving to the top executive.

Mliswa told Post On Sunday Newspaper that we cannot fight corruption in Zimbabwe without the participation of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission(ZACC) and the Zimbabwe Republic Police who investigate, arrest and hand over to National Prosecuting Authority.

ZACC Commissioner Kuziwa Murapa told delegates that the salary issue is the major area which the country should focus on, even staff from ZACC also have remuneration challenges and it is difficult for officers to investigate million dollar scandals, they are prone to bribery and corruption.

“Officers being sent out to fight corruption are being paid a basic salary of ZWL$18 000 and you are sending this person to interview someone in cases involving millions.

What is your guarantee that this case can be concluded? It is incumbent upon ourselves that we need an improvement in the remuneration of those we send to fight corruption,” advised Murapa.

He added that given that we have corruption within our organization, there is corruption in ZRP, ZACC and everywhere.

“Let’s not tempt those who are willing to do the job by not paying them well,” he said.

He further highlighted the need for the chamber of mines to tell the truth regardless of the good picture that has been painted and share strategies in place to fight corruption in the mining sector.

Senator Chief Chikwaka asked on the strategies in place in fighting corruption within the Courts where the guilty are walking scot free and the innocent behind bars for committing no crime.

Legislators also quizzed on the high number of arrests without conviction in the country.
The MPs said some arrests have become baseless while Senator Priscah Mupfumira deplored the habit of arresting to investigate.

Deputy Police Commissioner, Temba Mushoriwa, representing Commissioner General of Police, Godwin Matanga said there is need for realignment of laws which was also highlighted by the majority of participants including PRAZ.

PRAZ board Chairman, Vimbai Nyemba

PRAZ board Chairman, Vimbai Nyemba said the regulatory Authority does not have teeth and flouted procurement procedures are as a result of laws which insufficiently support the execution of duties of bringing the corrupt to book.

“We are not sufficiently provided with information, unless or until one makes a formal report which will initiate an investigation,”Nyemba said.

She said there are poor reporting standards as seen in the quality of returns they submitted limits the accuracy of the public procurement reports, potentially compromising policy review process.

ZACC spokesperson, Commissioner John Makamure commended the work being done by the Committee in the fight against corruption crusade.

Makamure told this publication that the workshop has managed to highlight glaring gaps which are supposed to be plugged to stop the bleeding corrupt activities.

Makamure said the Chairperson of the Committee, Mliswa is steering a big ship that needs support and the invitation has come at a very opportune time with key stakeholders from local authorities, such as the Chamber of Mines.

Nyemba echoed the same sentiments saying, there is need to educate and engage with all stakeholders, the Courts, Judges, Police, Parliament to mention just a few as many cases have died a natural death once they are up with the NPA.

Reports by the AG have since shown that Government is the biggest violator of procurement and audit procedures.

AG, Mildred Chiri said in her report that there are delays and in some instances no response when the AG request for paperwork.

On the list of invites, the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) did not attend and Mliswa allege that the office is responsible of tenders which are currently under public and Parliamentary scrutiny, Pomona is a good example.

Among the stakeholders, ZIMRA also shared the efforts in weeding out corrupt officers from the Beitbridge border post and other entry points, where its officers accumulated ill-gotten wealth.

ZIMRA Operations Manager, Selleck Mapfeka said lot of property has been seized and the other one is still within the Courts where ZIMRA staff embezzled funds and invested in houses and cars.

Mliswa said every citizen, institutions and parastatals are and must be investigated and only the president according to the law cannot be investigated.

President of the Rural Local Authorities, Guy Mutasa said the funds at which the ministry announce, disbursements are poor and with the local currency being eroded daily by inflation, it creates gaps in procurement which will later be described as element of flouting the procurement process.

The disbursement of funds by the Ministry of finance, even to ministries after national budget consultation has been poor, with majority of ministries claiming to have received less than 30 percent of the annual budget so far.

Rushinga Legislator, Tendai Nyabani asked delegates, “what then are we going to do to end corruption, yes we have identified salary issues as the major driver, what then,” he asked.

Participants from Kenya Including Professor Patrick Loch Otieno Lumumba said there is nothing called corruption, its called theft.

Transparency International Zimbabwe Executive Director, Tafadzwa Chikumbu said the role and approach by the APNAC committee is critical in the fight against corruption, and the workshop alone strengthens systems across the board, closing gaps and incapacitating legislators and all players in the field.

Abel Matsika of Urban Councils Association of Zimbabwe (UCAZ) President said Government has seriously raised conflicting policies, circulars and memos which are not in sync with reality on the ground, creating a field for corruption in the country.

“The widely spoken Devolution and its funds should be completed so that Councillors play their oversight role. For Harare, we have Tafadzwa Muguti, he wakes up demolishing structures for informal traders, knowing well enough that the economy relies from informal trading, isn’t it recipe for disaster?” he asked.

In Conclusion Matsika asked Parliament to complete the process on Devolution; the Chairperson of the APNAC committee is however on record speaking about this in the National Assembly and the blame has been put on the Minister of Local Government, July Moyo.

This Publication has in possession a communication confirming members in the ruling Zanu PF Party, corruptly getting allowances from devolution as Councillors since inception in 2018 but no Provincial Councils area in place.

The Committee concluded on having scheduled engagement set with timeline with relevant stakeholders for the same initiative. Mliswa urged his counterparts and stakeholders to be fearless and patriotic in fighting corruption, legislators to focus and put effort on the remaining important bills which include the protection of whistle blowers bill.