Source: Fighting graft will clean our image | The Sunday Mail 24/04/2016
CORRUPTION has in recent years adversely impacted on the economy, resulting in President Mugabe enunciating a 10-Point Plan for Economic Growth whose ninth aspect focuses on the need for the country to pursue an aggressive anti-graft campaign.
Although highly disputed by officials in Zimbabwe, figures released by Transparency International in its annual corruption index last year ranked Zimbabwe 150 out of 167 countries in the world in terms of the prevalence of the vice.
But whether we agree with the rankings or not does not matter. The fact is that what has been created is a negative perception about Zimbabwe’s business environment and this is what we must deal with.
Still fresh in many minds is the looting of diamonds in Chiadzwa, with President Mugabe saying as much as US$15 billion could have been lost in just a single decade.
With an annual National Budget of US$4,3 billion, one can only wonder what US$15 billion could have done for the country.
The money could certainly have made a significant impact on an economy currently plagued by a cash shortages and other challenges ranging from inadequate medical drugs in public health institutions and low funding for critical sectors like agriculture.
The fiasco around the US$15 billion has now been hijacked by anti-Government agents and functionaries who now see this as a Lazarus moment for them to revive their fading political fortunes.
As such, Government needs to swiftly take corrective measures to undo the negative perceptions that are being spread around the world about doing business in Zimbabwe.
It will certainly reassure the people that Government is committed to tackling corruption and delivering on economic transformation promises as contained in Zim-Asset.
There have been some efforts to nip corruption in the bud.
A forensic audit currently being done by the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development is expected to expose what happened to the diamonds mined between 2006 and 2015 in Chiadzwa.
Once the culprits are identified, those responsible should be severely punished. There can be no sacred cows when it comes to matters of national interest.
Lessons on dealing with corruption can be drawn from China where President Xi Jinping’s political brand has been strengthened by a vicious clampdown on corruption.
President Xi has not minced his words, nor been hesitant in acting, against both “tigers and flies”, a reference to both high-level and low-ranking officials.
His campaign has seen to the imprisonment of 100 high-level officials including chief executives of state-owned companies and four national leaders.
In Zimbabwe, Government’s anti-corruption efforts have been seen in the appointment of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission led by Dr Job Wabhira after the organisation had gone for two years without commissioners.
President Mugabe’s Office has taken it upon itself to oversee this important brief after the previous commission was largely viewed as a toothless bulldog.
While some CEOs of public enterprises and other top officials have been sacked for corruption, very little has been done to make the culprits pay back the money or even spend a day in jail.
This has created the impression that people can loot and the worst thing they will face is dismissal. They can keep their ill-gotten goods while the rest of the nation suffers because of their selfish and illegal actions.
Audit reports of State-owned companies have confirmed that procurement procedures have been flouted, in the process creating “tenderprenuers” who are making a killing through inflating prices and delivering sub-standard goods and services.
The public officials have been accused of wantonly pampering themselves with cars and housing loans much to the detriment of service delivery.
It is abundantly clear that the siphoning of state resources by a few elite responsible for running State-owned companies is affecting the economy, hence President Mugabe’s call to pursue the anti-corruption thrust to save the economy from the rot.
At the end of the day people must be held accountable for their actions. A whole country cannot perpetually pay for the misdeeds of a few rotten apples.
It is in the national interest to clean up Zimbabwe’s image not only to attract sustainable foreign direct investment, but also because it is simply the right thing to do.