ZIMBABWE Revenue Authority (Zimra) commissioner-general Gershem Pasi ruffled feathers when he told Parliament that the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and Zimbabwe National Roads Authority (Zinara) should remit all the money they collect to Treasury, suggesting that the police were collecting between US$3 million and US$7 million at roadblocks monthly — money which never finds its way to Treasury at a time government is financially hamstrung.
While most Zimbabweans are in support of Pasi’s suggestion in the interest of transparency and accountability, the police in particular were seething with anger judging from chief police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba’s reaction.
Charamba accused the Zimra boss of peddling a “big falsehood which is intended to whip public emotions against police in pursuance of an obvious agenda”.
Pasi suggested it was unfair for the police to keep the revenue they collect and yet police officers were being paid by Treasury.
But Charamba, shooting from the hip, suggested Pasi had failed to meet government revenue targets, “hence this blame to cushion his failure”.
Charamba dismissed figures mentioned by the Zimra boss arguing “the monthly retentions have never exceeded US$1 million per month”. Curiously though, Charamba did not reveal the figures police were collecting, raising eyebrows.
It however appears to many Zimbabweans it does not matter whether police collect US$7 or $7 million monthly — all revenue collected no matter how little, should be remitted to Treasury to plug leakages and ensure accountability.
Besides, like Pasi noted, money collected by government departments or agencies and not remitted to Treasury is susceptible to abuse.
Besides the police and Zinara, the perennially broke government should act to ensure all other agencies and government departments collecting revenue, but keeping it for their use, forward the money to Treasury. These include the Registrar-General’s department, Environmental Management Agency and the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe, among others.
The public has never been made aware of the revenue figures these departments generate and how it is used.
After pooling all resources, Treasury should then be able to allocate funds according to needs to ensure all government departments remain functional.
Economist Eric Bloch said there is need for all funds collected to be regularly audited to ensure transparency and accountability.
He said most progressive governments in the world pooled their resources before distributing them, unlike in Zimbabwe where some government departments kept what they collected.
“In every arm of government, all revenue collected should go directly to Treasury, so I agree with Pasi. The money should not be channelled through Zimra because Zimra’s role should simply be to raise revenue mainly through taxes, and the money should also go to Treasury alongside all other revenue collected by government agencies,” Bloch said.
“Revenue collected by government departments can be used for many other purposes and funds could be expropriated which is corruption. This may be the reason why some people don’t want controls.”
Bloch said it was also important to have a fixed timetable for remittances while also ensuring there is proper accounting for funds collected to plug leakages.
In her scathing attack on Pasi, Charamba justified not remitting traffic fines saying “police operations have been negatively affected due to lack of fiscal support”. According to her, “this militated against police functions with the public castigating us for poor service delivery, especially on (crime) scene attendance due to lack of transport.”
However, it is no secret that the police still have a very poor record in terms of crime-scene attendance with most police stations having inadequate resources especially cars, despite the ZRP retaining traffic fines.
This is more so in rural areas where police officers often have to cover long distances on foot.
Equally, there has been very little improvement in the country’s roads despite the millions of dollars being retained by Zinara. In fact, what is commonplace are allegations of corruption involving senior officials.
Top Zinara executives have been fingered in multi-million-dollar scams involving the awarding of road equipment and maintenance tenders among several other corrupt deals.
A recent audit by the Comptroller and Auditor-General revealed that the roads authority failed to account for US$6 million meant for the Roads and Road Traffic Fund, to provide tools and equipment for road construction and maintenance in 2011.
This is why the motoring public is up in arms against plans by the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development to introduce urban toll gates, and the to increase toll fees from US$1 to US$2.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has taken up the matter and written to Transport minister Obert Mpofu demanding that the ministry provides the figures for money collected since the inception of the toll gate system.
ZLHR wants the ministry to provide a breakdown of collections per toll gate, allocation and use of funds collected from the time the toll gate system commenced to date and the names of entities involved in the construction of toll gates and the amounts due to them.
The ministry was also asked to avail the names of entities contracted for purposes of rehabilitating the road network and the amounts due and payable to them. It should also give an account of future projects and activities to be financed from toll gates.
ZLHR said the ministry should also provide Zinara’s audited financial statements from the commencement of the toll gate system to date.
“… the new Constitution requires open, transparent and responsive governance and enshrines the rights of citizens to access information and participation in governance,” wrote ZLHR to Mpofu.
Similarly, the public should know how much ZRP has collected at roadblocks which motorists complain are too many and designed to raise funds rather than prevent accidents and crime — and how the money was used.
Also in the interest of transparency, Zimbabweans are entitled to know how the levies deducted from their salaries such as the Aids levy are used. They would want to know how organisations such as the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority, which collects a rural electrification levy whenever people pay for electricity, are using such funds.
At a time when government is trying to spruce up its image, hence the recent crafting of the 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, ensuring full disclosure of how much government agencies are collecting and how they had used the resources would be a good starting point.