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Revamp corporate governance structures

I WRITE to comment on the views in the Editor’s Memo “Zupco rot emblematic of parastatals” (Zimbabwe Independent, May 21) and similar widely held views by the public with regards to the management of parastatals.

Commentators like you and other people trying to proffer solutions to the perennial under-performance of state enterprises take a very simplistic view that this is a result of mismanagement and corruption. Do you really think all these managers at Zupco, NRZ, TelOne, ZBC, Noczim, Zimpapers, Airzim and others who have been changed over and over are dumb, clueless and incompetent individuals? This is the thinking I get from the conclusions reached by most of you people in the private media.
My argument is that you are failing to understand the underlying causes of the challenges facing managing of parastatals, all that you are bringing out are symptoms resulting from shortcomings in the structural set-up of parastatals. Therefore, no matter how brilliant and experienced the individuals being hired to manage these organisations, they are bound to under-perform. We have some of the best brains in terms of experience, educational and professional qualifications in these organisations when compared to the private sector. Corruption, mismanagement and the resultant under-performance are being caused by a patronage system which ends up being created because of the weak corporate governance systems which are in place for running these organisations.
This results in unwarranted interference by various interest groups, the major culprits being the respective ministers and politicians placed in charge of these parastatals. We have seen this happening over the past 30 years under the Zanu PF government and now even under the inclusive government.
The fight over the control of parastatals, their boards, senior management appointments and permanent secretaries in ministries between Zanu PF and the MDCs is a clear manifestation of what I am referring to.
Control over these parastatals allows those in charge access to creating individual wealth, bribery, plundering and siphoning of public resources. Look at what is happening at Chiadzwa diamond fields with regards to Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation and Minerals Marketing Corporation Of Zimbabwe.
In short, what is required right now is to revamp the whole corporate governance structures for all parastatals so that ministers and politicians do not interfere directly in the day to day running of these organisations.
A system which will restrict ministers to only ensure that government policy is being adhered to and not to give directives on day to day operations. Ministers give directives on who to hire and fire, decide salary structures, prices to charge for goods and services, where to source for supplies and services, who and when to provide free services, and who to partner with in business, negotiate deals for parastatals.Without getting to this root cause behind the poor performance of parastatals, even if there is a change in government and the MDC takes-over, the rot will resurface sooner or later, perhaps at a faster pace given how some of these MDC ministers have failed to handle the post February 2009 transition to dollarisation for the parastatals they are running.

Dakarai Chiutsiko,
Harare.

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