via Corrupt public officials must face prosecution: Legal expert | The Herald January 28, 2014
Public officials who award themselves “monster” packages and run down institutions they have been entrusted to manage should not only be fired but must also be prosecuted in terms of the new Constitution, a legal expert has said.This follows the announcement that Premier Service Medical Aid Society chief executive office Dr Cuthbert Dube has been relieved of his responsibilities after it emerged he was earning a basic monthly salary of US$230 000.
Indications are that the package was agreed on by Dr Dube and PSMAS board chair Mrs Meisie Makeletso Namasusu – who has also left the board – as per “traditional” practice at the society.
The senior management packages at PSMAS, which have outraged Zimbabweans, appear to be in contravention of the new Constitution.
Chapter 9 of the Constitution (Principles of Public Administration and Leadership) deals holistically with the conduct expected of management of public institutions.
Chapter 9 Section 194 of the Constitution focuses on “Basic values and principles governing public administration”. Subsections 1(a) and (b) expect: “a high standard of professional ethics must be promoted and maintained; efficient and economical use of resources must be promoted.”
Section 195(1) demands that, “Companies and other commercial entities owned or wholly controlled by the State must, in addition to complying with principles set out in Section 194(1), conduct their operations so as to maintain commercial viability and abide by generally accepted standards of good corporate governance.”
Analysts further point out that Section 196 in its entirety appears to have been violated by the goings-on at PSMAS. The section deals with “Responsibilities of public officers and principles of leadership”.
Section 196(1)(a) says authority assigned to a public officer is a matter of trust and must be exercised in a manner that “is consistent with the purposes and objectives of this constitution”.
Section 196(3)(c) demands “accountability to the public for decisions and actions”. A legal expert in the Public Service Ministry last night said forcing Mr Dube and Mrs Namasusu out of PSMAS was an admission by the board and Government that the Constitution had been violated.
“Violation of the Constitution should not go unpunished. It is time it was made clear to the people at public institutions that abusing their offices is actually a punishable crime.
“Simply relieving someone of his or her duties sends the wrong signals. It tells other people that they can loot public resources and/or abuse office and the worst that will happen is that they are told to move on with the money they will have taken.
“Some people even get golden handshakes when they leave institutions that they will have pillaged,” he said.
The expert said at present people could technically get away with violating Chapter 9 of the new Constitution as its provisions were yet to be regularised through enforcement of an appropriate Act of Parliament.
Section 198 calls for such an Act of Parliament. That section also calls for all public officers to “make regular disclosure of their assets”, establishment of “codes of conduct to be observed by public officers” and to provide for “the disciplining of persons who contravene the provisions of this Chapter or any code of conduct or standard” set by the Constitution.
“While the Public Finance Management Act is still based on the old Constitution, the new Constitution is law and surely some sort of action can be taken in this regard,” said the legal expert.