Pressure is mounting on government to stem the bleeding at state enterprises amid indications the ruling Zanu PF has piled pressure on responsible authorities to implement the Public Entities Corporate Governance Bill and institute transparency and accountability of state enterprises and parastatals (Seps).
Since Independence from Britain in 1980, President Robert Mugabe’s government has dished out billions in fiscal support to various state-owned enterprises, which have continuously bled the fiscus.
His party has also been looting state-owned enterprises for years.
Worries Seps have become the feeding trough of rogue and corrupt public officials and politicians, through corruption and other malpractices, forced Zanu PF’s various organs to put pressure on government to cut salaries of executives and boards of struggling parastatals as well as expedite implementation of the Public Entities Corporate Governance Bill.
This comes as the economy suffered losses of more than US$500 million owing to inflated energy tenders that were allocated to unqualified contractors. The call to reform also comes in the wake of allegations Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo could have siphoned hundreds of thousands from the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund and donated some of the money to Zanu PF.
The party’s 2016 conference proposed Mugabe’s office, in consultation with the Ministry of Finance, “should expedite the finalisation and the effective implementation of new remuneration framework for Seps and local authorities as a means of reducing expenditure and unjustified salaries and allowances/benefits to boards and executive management of some Seps”.
Ultimate oversight for the effective implementation of the Bill, according to the conference, must be vested in the Office of the President and Cabinet.
The conference also said government, via all relevant agencies, should also make determined efforts to combat corruption by “whomsoever” and that wherever such corruption and abuse of office is proven by way of due process, the guilty should face the full wrath of the law.
“… Punishment for such theft and abuse of public resources and assets should be the basis of restitution (size of assets to the value of the resources misappropriated) and retribution ( imprisonment).”
The meeting also called on its members in government to implement Seps with a view to combat corruption and improve efficiency in the state entities which are critical to economic turnaround and service delivery.
Seps already identified for prioritised reform are Air Zimbabwe, Civil Aviation Authority, National Railways of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Power Company, Industrial Development Corporation, Grain Marketing Board, Agricultural Rural Development Authority, Cold Storage Company, TelOne and the Zimbabwe National Water Authority.
Zimbabwe’s once flourishing parastatals — which used to be the engine of economic growth — have been run down due to poor corporate governance, maladministration and corruption through perennial looting of resources by public officials and those close to the corridors of power, while other economies have thrived on the back of parastatals.
China, for instance, has its economy primarily driven by parastatals which contributed nearly a third of its GDP as of 2015
A yet to be consolidated list of the Zanu PF 2016 conference resolutions noted with concern the underperformance of Seps and persistent corporate governance failings by some boards and executive management of these enterprises as detailed repeatedly in the Auditor-General’s annual reports to government.
The conference was also concerned by some boards and executive management, even in underperforming or non-performing Seps, who pay themselves exorbitant salaries and benefits with total disregard for the economic and financial challenges facing the nation as well as the prevalence of corruption and rampant abuse of office.
A damning National Economic Conduct Inspectorate report, exclusively obtained by the Zimbabwe Independent, a decade ago revealed shocking levels of looting at Ziscosteel, the country’s iron and steel making giant.
The looting was perpetrated by highly placed government officials, including a former vice-president and ministers.
Of late, other parastatals have fallen victim to abuse from government ministers and influential individuals, as well Zanu PF as a party.