AS hostility intensifies towards the divided Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc), which has targeted several government ministers and permanent secretaries on corruption charges, the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) has been accused of frustrating the commission by denying it funding for some activities.
By Wongai Zhangazha
Just last week, the OPC tried to block three Zacc commissioners from travelling to Hong Kong for training, stating that they could not go due to budgetary constraints.
Zacc sources said Treasury wrote to them at the end of last week, telling them to cancel the three-week training at the Hong Kong Anti-Corruption Institute because of what it described as the current economic situation prevailing in this country.
However, two of the commissioners, Cathy Muchechetere and Farai Mashonganyika, a close relative of First Lady Grace Mugabe, defied the cabinet order and left for the training programme on Saturday.
The other commissioner, Goodson Nguni, who heads Zacc’s investigation committee, which has been in the eye of a storm after it ordered the arrest of Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo on charges of defrauding the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund (Zimdef) of more than US$400 000, did not travel.
Zacc sources said Nguni decided to cancel despite all expenses having been paid for the three-week course, fearing that it could backfire as it emerged that the commission, already divided along Zanu PF factional lines, was split over government procedure in such situations.
The sources said some commissioners believed that there was no need to seek cabinet approval by virtue of the organ being an independent constitutional body.
The training focuses on corporate governance issues, business ethics, strengthening internal audit/control mechanisms, as well as anti-fraud, anti-corruption awareness among other topics.
The OPC has since launched an investigation into Zacc for defying the order from cabinet.
“The cost of the trip for the three commissioners, including airfares and training costs, is US$42 000. In addition to that, the commissioners were given Visa credit cards belonging to Zacc without the commission’s resolution,” a Zacc source said. “It’s not clear how the money which paid for the airfares and training will be recovered. The Office of the President and Cabinet was not amused by this as such trips would need cabinet approval as per the office policy.”
Zacc’s spokesperson Phyllis Chikundura yesterday confirmed that some commissioners had travelled to Hong Kong but would not give more details.
The source said because procedures were not followed, deputy chief secretary in the OPC Ray Ndhlukula on Wednesday requested all paperwork involved in the Hong Kong trip.
Government’s continuous interference in Zacc’s work has raised questions as to the independence of the commission.
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.
Transparency International Zimbabwe in December last year bemoaned the lack of proper funding of Zacc after it was allocated US$1,6 million in the 2016 National Budget to combat corruption.