2021: Defining year in fight against corruption

Source: 2021: Defining year in fight against corruption | The Herald

2021: Defining year in fight against corruption
Youths participate in a march during the 2021 Anti-Corruption Day on December 10

Daniel Nemukuyu Investigations Editor

The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC), which over the past years became popular for investigating, arresting and dragging offenders to court, in 2021 engaged an additional strategy meant to prevent commission of corruption-related offences through engagement.

While investigating, arresting and ensuring prosecution of corruption offenders remained an integral function of the anti-graft body, researching on the offences and trying to come up with preventative measures has also proved to be an effective tool of fighting the cancerous vice.

Roundtables became one of the main tools used by ZACC in 2021 to engage different stakeholders and come up with ways of collectively fighting graft.

Corruption can never be fought single-handedly.

It requires collective efforts, each stakeholder playing his or her role to achieve the common goal.

An analysis of audit reports compiled annually by the Auditor General and others by other internal and external auditors showed that the malpractices reported keep on recurring without any improvement.

It also came out that recommendations by the auditors, especially the Auditor General, to parastatals, State enterprises, Government departments, local authorities, independent commissions and ministries were not being implemented.

In essence, the recommendations were being thrown into the dustbin.

In a bid to ensure compliance and a change of behaviour in public entities, ZACC this year deployed officers to eight local authorities for compliance checks where corruption was unearthed.

They checked on whether or not the entities were implementing audit recommendations, complying with set procurement regulations, among other issues.

They also sought to find out if the councils were complying with institutional policies and operational frameworks such as laws, policies, regulations, manuals and best practices.

To that end, ZACC temporarily spared the rod and engaged at least eight local authorities in Zimbabwe pointing to them all their shortfalls and malpractices.

Such an engagement gave birth to the “Inaugural Implementation Matrix Signing Ceremony” held on November 18, where eight local authorities and ZACC signed agreements of commitment to end graft within stipulated time frames.

After the spot checks, some culprits were arrested for corruption, but in the spirit of prevention of future corruption and educating the staff at the councils, ZACC listed all the malpractices and deficiencies noted at each local authority before engaging councils to find ways of correcting the wrongs.

Councils were divided into categories — red, amber and green.

Those councils without any corruption prevention and detection systems in place and those who were not even complying with procedures and the recommendations were classified in the red class.

Those who were partly complying were put in the amber class.

But the eight checked were all found wanting: Chegutu Town Council, Karoi Town Council, Mutoko Rural District Council, Umzingwane Rural District Council, Makonde Rural District Council, Mudzi Rural District Council, Zaka Rural District Council and Norton Town Council.

Mutoko RDC and Makonde RDC were classified under the amber category, while the other six were put in the red class.

The eight local authorities put pen to paper, undertaking to comply with the recommendations and to correct other wrongs within agreed time frames.

ZACC also introduced the idea of institutionalised integrity committees in public entities as a way of fighting corruption. 

Each institution, according to ZACC, should set up integrity committees, which should be sworn into office by the anti-graft body.

Setting up integrity committees at public institutions, according to ZACC, is an effective tool to prevent corruption and promote good corporate governance at institutional level.

Parastatals, State enterprises, local authorities, Government departments and ministries are participating in the pilot project.

Integrity committees are committees set up in institutions to spearhead the prevention of corruption and promotion of integrity within the institutions’ spheres of control.

They are focused at spearheading in-house anti-corruption efforts and enhancing good governance by institutionalising the fight against corruption within the organisation.

The establishment of integrity committees has been identified as one of the most effective ways to facilitate stakeholder participation in the anti-corruption drive.

Countries like Zambia, Tanzania and Namibia have since successfully introduced integrity committees which are producing positive results in the anti-graft fight.

Spearheaded by ZACC, the project starts with selected 21 public institutions and more entities will be roped in as time progresses.

The Treasury is funding the programme.

According to ZACC, the number of public institutions participating in the project is expected to rise to 250 by end of next year.

So far, almost 16 out of 21 institutions have since set up the committees, ahead of a mass swearing in ceremony on a date to be announced.

ZACC also engaged chief executive officers of parastatals and other State entities discussing their challenges and sharing ideas on how to fight corruption.

They also dealt with the issue of undue influence from superiors and at times, ministry officials who impose illegal directives on parastatals under them.

On November 10, ZACC met heads of procurement units for independent commissions, ministries and parastatals where they discussed corruption in procurement.

They shared experiences with ZACC warning PMUs against taking unlawful directives from superiors on procurement.

ZACC urged procurement teams to resist undue influence, saying complying with an unlawful instruction was not a defence in a corruption trial.

In 2021, ZACC convened two roundtable meetings where stakeholders in the fight against corruption discussed how whistleblowers can be protected to ensure effective prosecution of corruption cases.

They resolved to come up with a law that protects whistleblowers and the case has been referred to the relevant offices for crafting of a Bill.

On November 16, ZACC held a financial crimes indaba in Harare where top bank executives were invited.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Dr John Mangudya and representatives from all banks participated in the meeting where corruption in the banking sector was discussed.

Banks were urged to carry out due diligence and alert the Financial Intelligence Unit of all suspicious transactions.

Banks, according to ZACC, have a gatekeeping role to play and they must know their clients to an extent of tracing the sources of funds brought into the systems.

The banks were warned against sanitising dirty money and bringing it into the system without questioning.

Permanent secretaries and auditors were also engaged in meetings that sought to rope them in as key players in the national anti-corruption fight.

ZACC has also scored major successes in the area of asset recovery, having seized property worth $700 million.

The commission, through the National Prosecuting Authority’s Asset Forfeiture Unit headed by Mr Chris Mutangadura, has filed 18 cases at the High Court seeking unexplained wealth orders.

Since January this year, ZACC has managed to investigate and submit 184 dockets to the NPA for prosecution.

A total of 12 convictions were recorded this year in corruption cases investigated by ZACC, while most of the cases are still pending at court.