IN their 2013 Corruption Index transparency International ranks Zimbabwe 157th out of 177 countries making it one of the most corrupt.
This is six positions worse than in the 2012 Index. So pronounced is Zimbabwean corruption that the aggregate value of the corrupt practices undoubtedly exceeds the total amount generated from formal economic operations.
The corruption afflicting Zimbabwe prevails in most of its sectors. It is widely known that there are many corrupt practices within government. Many civil servants solicit for bribes.
Undoubtedly some of the corrupt seek to justify their dishonest activities by pointing out that some of the country’s ministers are very corrupt, for there can be no other reason for the extent of wealth they have accumulated in a remarkably short period of time despite modest salaries.
Illustrative of rampant downstream corrupt practices is the extent to which some police officers manning roadblocks demand payments notwithstanding that no offence has been committed, and, upon receipt of payment, fail to issue traffic tickets or receipts. Many motorists have experienced this especially when travelling on the national highways.
Corruption also extends to the private sector. Amongst the corrupt practices are purchasing officers accepting so-called monetary or other gifts from suppliers, thus motivating contracts with and purchases from such suppliers.
Similarly, often the delivered quantities of ordered goods are at variance with invoiced quantities from manufacturers for supply to third parties and are often delivered to the customers in greater quantities than ordered and invoiced, with the supplier’s merchandisers receiving pay-offs in exchange for the under-invoicing.
It is not only merchandise which is misappropriated, but also many in-house supplies of almost all employers, be it pens (acquired by employees for their children), office refreshment supplies such as tea and coffee, sugar, or regular abuse of the employer’s telephone service for personal and private calls to family and friends.
Likewise, employees steal time from their employers during the course of the day to engage in shopping or meet with family or friends, without seeking the employer’s consent.
Among the many environments in which corruption prevails are parastatals and other state enterprises. Although the populace has been conscious of the corruption pervading such enterprises for a long time, the parastatals’ corruption cancer has recently been extensively highlighted by the media.
The disclosures of the salaries and benefits of parastatal executives have shocked the country. In some instances, the basic monthly salaries before allowances and other benefits have been as much as US$200 000 – US$500 000 per month. This contrasts sharply with over 80% of Zimbabweans whose incomes fall below the Poverty Datum Line of about US$560 per month, being the bare minimum income needed to fund absolute essentials.
The excessive salaries of many parastatal executives are undoubtedly a major contributant to the losses sustained by almost all of the enterprises, and to their continued inability to service debts.
The results of those losses are endless increases in parastatal service charges for supply of energy, water, telecommunications, rail services and others. The increases intensify hardships of the population reeling under a struggling economy.
Renowned economist, John Keynes said: “I think that capitalism, wisely managed, can probably be made more efficient for attaining economic ends than any alternative system yet in sight, but that in itself is in many ways extremely objectionable”.
Zimbabwe’s government claims to espouse capitalism, but has recurrently demonstrated not only an inability, but also a lack of will to manage it wisely, thereby failing to achieve desired economic ends.
Its negative practices are also major contributors to the magnitude of the state’s fiscal deficits. On the one hand rigged, over-priced contracts for supplies and services to the state erode government’s measures which are in any event inadequate to service national needs.
On the other, such resources are further deflected by the extent of misappropriation of government supplies, and by the recurrent abuse of state assets (such as the extensive, unauthorised private usage of state-owned motor vehicles). All such practices indisputably constitute corruption.
Corrupt practices impact negatively upon various economic sectors, one of which is tourism. It is a tremendous deterrent to tourists to be confronted with hours of queuing at immigration entry and exit posts, only to be advised (often by touts, but also sometimes by officials) that with a “voluntary” payment they can be attended to immediately.
Similarly, the tourist is deterred by the number of police roadblocks on the national highways, and the unsustainable demands for kickbacks.
While police roadblocks are necessary, it is extremely difficult to justify as many as eight roadblocks between Beitbridge and Bulawayo, six roadblocks between Bulawayo and Victoria Falls, and sometimes as many as 10 roadblocks between Bulawayo and Harare.
These roadblocks aggravate motorists in general and tourists in particular — especially when there are corrupt demands for payments.
Authorities must vigorously curb corruption. Doing so would be a major step towards real economic growth and containment of inflation for corruption is a stimulus of inflation — prices increase whenever production and marketing costs rise because of corrupt practices.