THE Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) says it will continue investigating cases of corruption, including those involving high-profile persons, despite interference by government officials.
By Wongai Zhangazha
In an interview this week, Zacc principal public relations officer Phyllis Chikundura said the anti-corruption body would ensure there are no sacred cows in the fight against graft, although she also revealed Zacc was facing numerous challenges including staff and funding shortages, which were hindering its work.
Despite being an independent constitutional body, the government has been interfering in Zacc’s work.
In June, President Robert Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba accused Zacc officials of behaving like rattlesnakes after investigators raided several government departments, parastatals and local authorities as part of a wide corruption investigation.
Zacc officials also demanded documents from several permanent secretaries as part of their probe.
Charamba’s statements were made despite the fact that Zacc had secured search warrants from the courts. He was particularly angry that Zacc was investigating the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation bosses who allegedly unprocedurally acquired 35 vehicles worth US$900 000.
Three weeks ago Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko stormed Avondale Police Station in Harare to free Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara) acting chief executive officer Engineer Moses Juma and non-executive director Davison Norupiri, who had been arrested by Zacc investigators on allegations of defrauding the parastatal of US$1,3 million.
The duo has not appeared in court since then.
“As Zacc, the issue of the so-called untouchables is just a perception and we really dismiss that perception. There would be no sacred cows in the execution of our mandate except those covered by the constitution. Zacc was given powers to investigate and expose all cases of corruption regardless of one’s status in society,” Chikundura said.
“Zacc goes after any grand corruption and grand corruption is not the preserve of a specific class of people in society. The seriousness of a corruption case is not determined by a big name or small names, but by the cost to society.”
Without disclosing details, she said Zacc is investigating a number of cases, some of which involve high-profile persons. She said some of the cases were new while others were carried over from the previous commission.
Chikundura said corruption cases were very high in Zimbabwe, which she said was a cause of concern.
“While statistics are there for public perusal, to disclose the statistics would be pre-empting and jeopardising investigations, but corruption is rampant in all sectors of the economy and all are vulnerable to corruption,” she said.
Chikundura said Zacc had funding challenges, which were hampering the body from executing its mandate.
“Just like in all organisations in Zimbabwe resources may never be enough. Zacc currently receives funding from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The funds are greatly inadequate for our operations. However, efforts are currently underway to engage supporting and co-operating partners to augment the resources from Treasury,” she said.
Chikundura said Zacc would be more effective if it decentralises its operations to all its provinces in the country. She said Zacc also needed massive staff recruitment since the organisation is understaffed.
In addition, Zacc needs “resources to use and maintain the vehicle fleet which Zacc currently has; fuel to conduct investigations around the country; conduct awareness programmes like exhibitions baseline survey and system audits, among other activities”. The anti-corruption body also needs an office in Harare’s central business district, vehicles, office furniture and computers.
Commenting on findings by Transparency International’s 2015 Corruption Index where Zimbabwe is ranked 150/175 countries, Chikundura said: “Zacc cannot accept nor deny the findings and neither does Zacc have control over the research process, but what we know as Zacc is that the levels of corruption are very high to levels that do not promote investment in the country.
“However, Zacc has prioritised the conducting of a national baseline survey. The ZimAsset economic blueprint has advocated for ‘zero tolerance to corruption’. To that end Zacc is of the view that the undertaking of a nationwide survey will provide an opportunity for citizens of Zimbabwe to ‘speak first’ and propose homegrown solutions and strategies in the fight against corruption.”