Government action missing link in graft fight

THIS week there were positive signs that government is abandoning its hardline stance on several policies militating against economic recovery by, among other moves, softening its approach to the indigenisation and economic empowerment laws, instituting measures to fight corruption and engage the international community, including the European Union.

OWEN GAGARE CANDID COMMENT

Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa told parliament government was in the process of amending the Indigenisation Act to ensure a sector-specific approach, in the process abandoning its discredited one-size-fits-all approach.

The development comes at a time Zimbabwe is set to receive US$138 million from the EU under the National Indicative Programme should restrictive measures, which Zanu PF says are in fact “illegal sanctions”, imposed on the country in 2002 under Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement, are lifted as is widely expected in November. The government and the EU are negotiating for Zimbabwe to benefit from the 11th European Development Fund to run until 2020.

Also on an encouraging note government, working in conjunction with the private sector, has crafted a National Code of Corporate Governance which, among other deliverables, aims to curb corruption in both the public and private sectors, while enhancing accountability and transparency.

Zimbabweans though will be hoping that this time government goes beyond mere rhetoric for which it is infamous and has resulted in the crafting of policies merely for decorative purposes. Implementation is key.

While the formulation of the corporate governance code is welcome considering the numerous cases of shocking corruption particularly in state enterprises as revealed by the media ad nauseum, many Zimbabweans will be aware that in 2010, President Robert Mugabe launched the Corporate Governance Framework for State Enterprises and Parastatals, whose goals were pretty much the same.

The colourful launch was attended by the unity government principals, but sadly — or is it predictably — nothing was done to ensure adherence to the principles of the code. As a result, parastatals remain feeding troughs for parastatal bosses, ministers and their cohorts while bleeding Treasury.

Similarly, while Zimbabweans will be happy with moves to eradicate corruption they will remain suspicious given the blind eye given to numerous cases of graft involving ministers and other bigwigs. This is despite public condemnation and threats of action, including from Mugabe.

In March, for instance, Mugabe revealed a cabinet minister and a female parliamentarian demanded a US$120 000 bribe from a potential investor in order to facilitate a meeting with him.

And in 2012, a fuming Mugabe told Zanu PF delegates that some of his ministers had demanded bribes of up to US$10 million from ANC-linked investors.

In these cases, and many others, no action has been taken, giving credence to reports government is paying lip service to the fight against endemic corruption.
The missing link, as ever, remains government action.