THE Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) has launched an investigation into the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) over massive corruption, allegedly committed during the 2013 referendum and harmonised elections, which could end up shaking the electoral body months before crucial polls scheduled for later this year.
By Wongai Zhangazha
Zacc has assigned two investigators to look into the corruption allegations highlighted in a letter by Zec acting chairperson Emmanuel Magade requesting the probe after the electoral commission “unearthed glaring inconsistencies and corruption”, allegedly committed in 2013.
Magade took over from former Zec chairperson and Supreme Court judge Justice Rita Makarau, who resigned in December.
In a letter dated January 9 to Zacc chairperson Job Wabhira, the Zec acting chairperson said he was worried about a number of reports relating to tender scandals that expose massive corruption engulfing the electoral body.
Sources at Zacc confirmed receiving the correspondence, though they could not reveal the extent of corruption at Zec in financial terms, as investigations are still at an early stage.
The letter comes at a time Zec is spearheading the biometric voter registration exercise as part of a process to prepare a new voters’ roll. This followed concerns by political players that the previous register was in a shambolic state and prone to manipulation.
In the letter, Magade said Zec resolved to expose rampant corruption at the electoral body at a board meeting held on December 19, two weeks after Makarau resigned without giving reasons.
“Zec notes with profound concern what appears to be a growing trend insofar as procurement issues are concerned. There is need to manage the nature of such cases before the situation gets out of hand, especially having regard to the fact that with pending elections there is a lot of procurement that is going to be conducted,” Magade said in the letter.
“It is pertinent to note that Zec has unearthed glaring inconsistencies and possible acts of corruption in the procurement processes which occurred during the 2013 referendum and harmonised election. We would be quite happy to share with you available documentation (such as audit reports) at the appropriate time.”
He said there was need to arrest corruption at Zec before the situation got out of hand, considering that Zimbabwe, in a few months’ time, would be holding elections and there would be a lot of procurement. “We respectfully implore your organisation to give our request urgent priority in view of the fact that the election season is now upon us and the organisation should be flighting a lot of tenders for the provision of goods and services,” he said.
In her report on the 2013 harmonised elections to the National Assembly, Makarau in 2014 said erratic disbursement of funds from government fueled corruption in purchasing processes.
Zec said because of time constraints caused by the May 31 2013 Constitutional Court ruling forcing Mugabe to proclaim election dates following an application by a citizen, Jealousy Mawarire, the electoral commission had been pushed into hurrying procurement procedures.
“Under normal circumstances and informed by international best practice, procurement of the bulk of non-security election materials such as tents, computers, stationery, protective clothing, lighting, string, ballot boxes, padlocks, booths and sentinel paper should be done 18 to 12 months before an election,” reads the report.
“However, indelible visible voting ink/markers, printed ballot papers and election forms need to be available within a period that will allow unhurried and secure delivery to the respective provinces, districts and polling stations, long enough to allow proper setting up of polling stations.”
Zec said while there were no major problems with the procurement of indelible ink from a South African company, the purchase of other materials caused the commission some headaches.
“There were, however, challenges during the procurement of other election materials due to the late release of funding from Treasury, resulting in a congested and hurried procurement process. Some election items that took about three months to procure in ordinary times were procured in a matter of hours, thus creating fertile ground for underhand deals and overpricing of goods. Some reputable major suppliers declined to provide services to the Commission for fear of soiling their reputation in the event of failure to supply on schedule,” adds the report. “. . . The delays in the release of funding from Treasury resulted in a congested procurement process. Some election items that took about three months to procure under normal circumstances were procured in a matter of hours, creating fertile ground for underhand deals and overpricing of goods. To avoid corruption in the procurement of election materials, Treasury should provide the commission with the necessary resources well in time to enable it follow the normal procurement processes.”
Magade’s letter also comes at a time a Chinese firm, Laxton Group Limited, approached the Administrative Court last week appealing against Zec’s decision to award a New York-based company, IPSIDY Inc, the tender to supply, install and configure de-duplication equipment last month.
Magade said while the electoral body is conducting its own investigations they trusted Zacc, which he pointed out had “the capacity to do a thorough and objective investigation”.
“It is pertinent to note that Zec has now two cases which have been reported widely in the print media. The first case involved the tender mobile toilets which were to be used during the voter registration national blitz exercise. It emerged that one of the unsuccessful bidders approached a media house with reports, allegedly from a source within Zec, that Zec has awarded a tender to a company it felt was not qualified to be awarded the tender,” Magade said in the letter.
“The second case involved the tender of the Automated Finger Print Identification System . . . The article alleges that Zec manipulated and violated tender procedures when it awarded the tender to the winning bidder.”