BY PROBLEM MASAU
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has for the first time admitted that there has been massive pilferage and corruption in government departments which is driving the black market and prices of goods and services.
Writing in his weekly Sunday Mail column, Mnangagwa said: “Many things have been going wrong in (public) sector, which must show the way and whose buying power accounts for 70% of the demand for goods and services in our economy. Much worse, it is the governing sector. With such a preponderant procurement role in the economy, and such high exemplary conduct, it goes without saying that what the public sector does or fails to do right, impacts on the whole economy whether for better or worse.
“By any count, what the public sector spends each month is quite huge; in fact, decisive to the direction the whole economy takes. As a demander of goods and services, the public sector discharges huge sums of money into the economy, which is why what it does matters to everyone. Ordinarily, the goods and services that government demands should stimulate and promote greater activity in the economy.
“Yet our latest investigations have shown that this is not always so. If anything, this huge demand for goods and services by the public sector has, in fact, been stoking the black market, leading to currency and price instability in the whole economy. The public sector has been largely guilty of sins of omission. We have not always been a prudent procurer, a weakness which has levied very costly consequences to the whole economy.”
Speaking at an economic conference last week, Finance ministry secretary George Guvamatanga also accused government ministries, departments and agencies of fuelling the black market rate.
“The unfortunate thing, Your Excellency, is that some of the pricing models are supported by procurement and also by line ministries. This is not acceptable and it has to stop Your Excellency,” he said.
Mnangagwa, however, angrily responded to Guvamatanga’s revelations, describing them as punishable and if it were in China, he would have been a suitable candidate for “execution” for his utterances.
Economist Godfrey Kanyenze said there was need for a social contract between industry and key representatives and stakeholders in the economy in order to avoid price hikes.
“When Zimbabweans see inflation rising, they are reminded of what happened yesteryear. There is general loot, lack of confidence and trust in the local currency. We need to bring a closure of those issues and come up with a social contract which will join the sector with representatives and stakeholders in the economy,” Kanyenze said.
He believes Mnangagwa has power to curb corruption if he is really serious on addressing the issue.
“A leader can’t just accept that there is corruption without any means of addressing it. Anti-corruption trust has to be set up at the highest level; the government has all the powers to address issues of corruption. If it really wanted to deal with corruption, it would not build the culture of impunity. Corruption needs strong hands to fight it. We can’t fight corruption when we don’t demonstrate it,” he added.
Another economist Yona Menon Banda said: “It (government) should adopt practices in the developed world, where projects are usually presided (over) by sort of public reports with technical input from professionals. Mnangagwa must invest more in auditing by empowering the auditor general. There should be transparency in everything carried out.”