Govt must act on corruption

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Dumisani Muleya

THAT corruption, besides monumental leadership and policy failures, among other issues, helped derail Zimbabwe from a promising developing country to a poverty-stricken pariah state is no longer in doubt.

Editor’s Memo,Dumisani Muleya

If one is to list factors which led Zimbabwe to where it is today, corruption ranks among the highest. The 1980 nation-building project and people’s dreams, hopes and aspirations were destroyed by a corrupt and incompetent regime. That is the trouble with Zimbabwe.

Hence we need an independent, free and investigative media — now more than ever before — to hold those in power and other influential places like the corporate world to account. Corporates are instruments of entrepreneurship and prosperity. But they can also be abused, like state entities, for personal aggrandisement.

We also need an active opposition, civil society and participatory citizenry to combat corruption which is widespread. Of course, we also need a competent government and political will to stem corrupt practices and activities in society. Corruption continues to harm Zimbabwe, hindering development, democracy and the fight against poverty. The country ranks lowly on corruption indices. Countries in Africa average 32 out of 100 in their Corruption Perception Index scores, and Zimbabwe is one of them.

Widespread lack of development, poverty and suffering — from Libya to Zimbabwe, and Mali to Somalia — is worsened by extensive corruption and looting frenzy, which siphon public resources, while increasing the cost of doing business and scaring away investors. Since he came to power, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been waxing lyrical about fighting corruption. But no one, including those around him, really takes him seriously on this. Critics always ask how does he genuinely fight corruption when he is surrounded by corrupt networks and greedy opportunists on the gravy train?

Now Mnangagwa has a chance to prove he really means business. Details and anecdotes from the Auditor-General Mildred Chiri’s reports on public spending released last week and what is happening around us give him useful information and in some cases hard evidence of corruption.

What is now needed is to summon political will and courage for him to tackle corruption in all its various manifestations. If he wants to be believed, Mnangagwa must urgently confront dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery, fraud and theft, as well as other criminal activities.

Mnangagwa’s arsenal of information and evidence is partly to be found in Chiri’s reports. As Chiri said last week, government last year had a $2 billion budget overrun without parliamentary approval, while various departments and local authorities flagrantly flouted accounting procedures.

She said government was supposed to spend $4,6 billion from the consolidated revenue account, but ended up splurging $7,1 billion. “The excess expenditure was still to be regularised in terms of section 307 of the constitution,” she said.

Chiri also exposed a litany of gross mismanagement and accounting malpractices by government departments, parastatals and local authorities involving millions of dollars, resulting massive waste. She has done this over the years and shown, even proven, millions have been wasted and stolen.

“Ministries processed payments amounting to $7 280 598 and $232 187 526 that were not adequately supported with receipts, invoices goods received notes and competitive quotations and this made it difficult for me to ascertain if these fundswere used for the intended purposes,” she said.

Now there you have it Mr President. Act without fear or favour, but don’t politicise corruption or embark on political witch-hunts. What we have seen so far is not a genuine anti-corruption campaign, but a pursuit of personal and political agendas and vendettas disguised as fighting corruption.

That approach is corrupt in itself and ultimately self-defeating. It prevents rather achieve the desired goal. We need to move away from slogans to action. Information and evidence of corruption are available. What is now needed is hardnosed action.

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