By Byron Mutingwende
The Zimbabwe Manpower Development (ZIMDEF) scandal brought to the spotlight the political dynamics, appointments and issues of transparency and accountability in public finance management in far as dealing with corruption is concerned.
Speaking at a policy dialogue dubbed “The Political Economy of Corruption and the Battle for Accountability in Zimbabwe: Reflections from the ZIMDEF Scandal”, organised by Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) at Meikles Hotel on Thursday 27 October 2016 in Harare, political analyst Takura Zhangazha said the key issue was to understand what sectors were being impacted by corruption.
“There is nothing that makes the ZIMDEF scandal new in the corruption discourse in Zimbabwe. Many cases have been brought to the spotlight including the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO), Premier Services Medical Aid Society (PSMAS) and issues of police impropriety just to mention a few.
“The key question that people need to ask is: What is being corrupted and who is corrupting it? Whenever corruption occurs, we are corrupting the national wealth, which should accrue to all citizens fairly and equitably. Corruption thus, affects social services like health and transport and in the ZIMDEF scandal, education for the students in colleges and universities suffered,” Zhangazha said.
The political analyst said that corruption should be understood on how one undermines the right of people to live in economically fair circumstances.
Zhangazha said that the ZIMDEF scandal portrayed that government elites can abuse state capital for private gain, self-aggrandisement and political mileage.
“To what extent are the bicycles relevant in improving the lives of the people of Tsholotsho? Who authorised that the money from ZIMDEF should fund such activities including campaigns by the First Lady? There is the need to address corruption holistically since the private sector may also drive it. In most cases, private capital can be negotiated with state capital for private gain. This is what happened in community share ownership trust deals in Marange. Thus, it is important to measure wealth not only in terms of monetary wealth but giving the citizens the right to own a decent life.”
In assessing the system of appointments and appointing authorities, Mary Jane Ncube, TIZ Executive Director, said that appointing authority in Zimbabwe is mostly exercised by the power either vested in the Act of Parliament or the Constitution.
Ncube said that Section 340 of the Constitution speaks very broadly to what the power to appoint entails without actually providing the guidelines as to what values, principles or system should guide the appointee.
“For that matter, it doesn’t define what qualities or qualifications the appointing authority should possess. We know from the Constitution and Acts of Parliament that appointing authorities are mainly ministers of the President. The latter is the appointing authority for ministers, judges, the Attorney General, Auditor-General, commissioners of all commissions and state agencies such as ZIMRA, Governor of the Central Bank, among others,” Ncube said.
These are critical appointments, which should be based on the need to promote and protect national interest above partisan, tribal, or individual interests. Ncube questioned why under Section 90 of the Constitution, there is no expectation or call for the President to promote, protect and uphold strong institutions of governance by appointing people that will represent integrity, accountability and transparency.
“Instead, Section 90 emphasises on upholding the values of the liberation struggle which some Zimbabweans have cheekily commented are more about not being a sell-out other upholding accountability and integrity. Hence the tendency to protect and inadvertently promote corrupt and criminal behaviour among the liberators whose allegiance and loyalty is questionable.
Ncube took a dig at the appointment of Goodson Nguni as a commissioner for the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) despite having been convicted for dishonesty in South Africa.
She added that such appointments discredit the legitimacy of the operations of ZACC as an entire institution.
Advocate Fadzayi Mahere analysed the legal framework governing corruption and said that it was important to discuss the grand corruption perpetrated by the elite. The ZIMDEF scandal was peculiar in that names are rarely identified where corruption occurs in institution but Moyo accepted wrongdoing.
“The existing legal machinery to deal with corruption is weak and ineffective. It rarely gives room to crimilanalise and prosecute the perpetrators. There is a shocking lack of political will to enforce the Constitution,” Mahere said.
Mahere bemoaned the fact that provisions of section 9 of the Constitution on good governance, transparency and personal integrity were not implemented and neither were the provisions of Section 254 on the creation of institutions like ZACC.
She called for additional mechanisms to fortify the capacity of the state in fighting corruption. The fact that the President appoints the Chairpersons of commissions, meant that the institutions like ZACC would not be independent and the members would be subject to political manipulation.
“The roles and powers of ZACC are outlined in Section 255 of the Constitution which include investigating and exposing corruption. However it has been silent about the missing $15 billion and on private sector corruption including the PSMAS scandal. They also have the mandate to receive and consider the complaints from the public but they have not been doing so. The expectation is for them to do this with the zeal they exhibited in the ZIMDEF scandal in the various other cases.
Mahere implored all citizens to demand their right of information in the interest of public accountability hence the need for them to ask about how money is used by the elites for development as enshrined in Section 62 of the Constitution.
Naome Chikanya from the Labour and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe (LEDRIZ) said that the principles guiding public finance management must be respected at all times. The principles evolve around transparency and accountability, equitable sharing of benefits and clear fiscal reporting among others.
Chakanya said that the Auditor General reports have often revealed the misuse of public funds but there has been no recourse on putting mechanisms to avoid the repetition of the breaches.
“The 2015 Auditor General reports have exposed challenges in the various ministries whereby most don’t even maintain accounting records. This leads to fraudulent activities because of the weak internal controls. For example, $420 000 of the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) was misdirected to cover other expenses of the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, curtailing the provision of education in the process,” Chakanya said.
The misuse of funds cuts across all the ministries and government departments. The Zimbabwe National Road Authority (ZINARA), the District Development Fund (DDF) and National Social Security Authority (NSSA) are some of the institutions reported for serious misuse of funds.
As recommendations, Chakanya called for a situation whereby audits would go down to provincial and local authority level since that’s where the provision of services emanates from. She encouraged the establishment of a framework to monitor the allocation and use of funds to their intended purposes and to compel accounting officers to comply with the Auditor General’s recommendations. This would be coupled with severe penalties for misuse and abuse of public funds, Chakanya added.