Distribution of Covid-19 donations raises stink

ZIMBABWE will require an urgent audit of Covid-19 donations soon after the pandemic is tackled, in view of the country’s serious crisis of resource mismanagement, former finance minister Tendai Biti has said.

Melody Chikono

Speaking at a Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (Zimcodd) public finance management reform indaba on the prudent management of resources in the era of Covid-19, Biti said Zimbabwe has plenty of resources, but lacks commitment to good governance.

As civil society demands transparency in the distribution of Covid-19 aid flowing into the country, Biti said the country cannot continue tolerating the looting of aid, especially in the times of disaster.

“A country that can afford a US$3,5 billion command agriculture loot cannot be one without resources,” Biti said. “There should be an audit soon after Covid so that we know who brought what and who got what. We really need transparency. What we have is challenges on resource allocation not resources themselves. We have sufficient money but the problem is how the money is spent.”

Biti said the fact that parliament has not been sitting has allowed members of the executive to do whatever they want. He said relevant committees needed to act responsibly and ensure accountability on the funds.

“Parliament is the only body that should make law, therefore closing parliament in times of disaster is worrying and provides a favourable environment for breeding corruption and abuse of public funds. Critical parliamentary committees must therefore meet,” Biti said.

Zimcodd has in the past projected that the country needs US$400 million for a comprehensive response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) executive director Muchaneta Mundopa, speaking at the same meting, said TIZ was yesterday filing a court application demanding to know how Covid-19 donations were distributed.

She said it was disappointing that the corrupt tendencies witnessed during the Cyclone Idai disaster and the cholera outbreak we recurring during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“On the 8th of April we wrote a letter to Ministry of Health and copied the Covid-19 taskforce asking for distribution matrix. At that time we were mainly focussing on Jack Ma’s donation, but the court application is now broader. We would expect the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission to conduct a corruption risk assessment on the humanitarian aid and advise the government accordingly in line with Section 255(h) of the constitution,” she said.

Mundopa said the focus should be on public procurement during the pandemic as well as transparency and accountability in the distribution and utilisation of resources.

“Section 72(1) of the Companies and Other Business Entities Act places an obligation on every company to maintain an accurate and up-to-date beneficial ownership register. This is a progressive clause. However, Section 73(10) of the Act further goes on to state that members of the public can access such information,” she said.