via EDITORIAL COMMENT: Parliament must ratchet oversight role | The Herald March 4, 2014
Allowing some individuals to earn mega salaries and allowances of up to US$500 000 a month paid for out of public funds in a country where the majority of State workers, mainly civil servants, get as little as US$400, is not only a travesty of justice but a source of serious national conflict.
Not only are workers discouraged from executing their lawful public duties, but these people who suck out the millions will at times engage in acts of sabotage and asset stripping, by bleeding already struggling institutions such as parastatals and local authorities. The few cases exposed by the media cannot be all or even most of the problem. We want to see all arms of the State move swiftly to probe the operations of every public institution funded by tax payers before some of the culprits cover their tracks.
It is against this backdrop that we commend Parliament’s proposal last Friday to come up with an independent committee of legislators to investigate all public institutions in an attempt to arrest all forms of graft. Parliament is the most representative arm of the State and as part of its oversight role, there is nothing wrong with legislators summoning ministers, permanent secretaries and parastatal heads to account for the public funds they receive. Indeed it is one of their central duties.
Every year Parliament, by voting on and, if necessary amending, the budget presented by the Minister of Finance passes on hundreds of millions of dollars of tax money to our public institutions and it is the right of all Zimbabweans to know how their money is used. It is therefore an insult to the people to just read of how their taxes are enriching a few families, while they wallow in poverty. Parliament should do its duty and move in and help stop this rot forthwith.
We therefore implore parliamentarians not to be corrupted by heads of public institutions because the majority of them have amassed millions of dollars and are capable of sponsoring some legislators not to support certain motions.
Our legislators should pursue national interests and rise above party politics and support this new special committee’s endeavours to fight corruption by giving it the necessary material and financial resources needed. Although at the same time Parliamentarians should not expect anything fancy in the way of extra allowances to serve on this committee.
When the committee is constituted, Zimbabweans yearning for economic turnaround of this country demand that the legislators will show no partiality when handling all the cases to come before them.
We know the committee will not have arresting powers. But it does not need them. Bringing everything out into the clear light of the noon sun, and Parliament has powers to do that, will allow other agencies to take action. It is important that the committee is thorough, clearing the innocent as well as impaling the guilty. It cannot be a monster devouring innocent people, simply because they support certain political persuasions.
The moment it does that it will lose the trust of Zimbabweans, become part of the problem rather than the solution, and will lose trust and decisions it makes might not be binding. The committee should strive for honesty, integrity and accountability.
We have young generations, men and women born after independence, who are coming into their own now. What sort of ethos are we bequeathing them: a history of a struggle to liberate a nation, or a history of looting? What kind of a country do we want to create? The parliamentary probe team, that is already overdue, should therefore make a difference and go down in the history of Zimbabwe as one of the instruments that played a pivotal role in fighting graft. As Parliament uses its immense powers to uncover wrong, the police, the courts and other instruments of the state can then move in and ensure those on the wrong side of the law face appropriate action.