Negligence, political inertia fuel graft

Source: Negligence, political inertia fuel graft | The Financial Gazette October 11, 2016

By Nyasha Chingono
GROSS negligence and lack of political will to combat institutional corruption are fuelling graft, which is costing Zimbabwe more than US$1 billion every year.
Corruption watchdog, Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ)’s release last week of a report implicating politicians and the police as major actors involved in rampant corruption in Zimbabwe has come as a rude awakening to the powers-that-be.
“It would be surprising if the value of corruption were less than US$1 billion annually. ZIMRA (the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority) was quoted as estimating that corruption losses amounted to about US$2 billion in 2012 alone,” reads the TIZ report.
Corruption has rose to become one of the key impediments to Zimbabwe’s economic development, and has now been imbedded in the way of doing business in the country.
The TIZ report states that police’s demand and acceptance of bribes from the public and business contributes 79,1 percent to corruption in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe is ranked among some of southern Africa’s most corrupt countries with a low Corruption Perception Index (CPI) score of 21 out of 100, compared to an average of 44 in four other Southern African Development Community states.
Transparency International ranks countries by their perceived levels of corruption, defined as the misuse of public power for private benefit, as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys.
TIZ’s latest study further dampens the country’s prospects of getting international financial aid, analysts have pointed out.
“The resulting institutionalisation and systematisation of corruption in Zimbabwean political and economic sphere has been extensive,” TIZ stated.
Coalition Against Corruption executive director, Terry Mutsvanga, said Zimbabwe cannot afford to continue to lose large sums of money to vice and government needed to be more serious in combating corruption.
“We have a long way to go and as long as we don’t have the political will to curb corruption; we will not go anywhere as a country,” Mutsvanga added.
TIZ cited high levels of impunity as one of the factors driving corruption in the country because suspected “culprits” were connected to “untouchable” political figures.
“In most of the grand corruption scandal cases, the alleged actors are rarely prosecuted and the Anti Corruption Commission has proved too weak to go after some high cases of grand corruption,” reads TIZ 2016 report on the country’s state of corruption.
Analysts have also argued that the lack of urgency in dealing with the Auditor General’s report that exposed corruption in most parastatals proves that most corrupt officials wield immense political power.
“The majority of perpetrators of grand corruption in Zimbabwe are political actors with political backing and influence. The dominant scandals that Zimbabwe has witnessed since the 1980s show trends of perpetrators wielding political power,” said TIZ.
Mutsvanga argues that high levels of impunity in dealing with corruption cases were shielding corrupt political leaders.
“Failure to deal with corruption means those in authority are also corrupt because they should be able to deal with such,” he said.
Many believe that the lack of political will to deal with corruption stems from the growing political corruption that involves bigwigs.
Political commentator, Jacob Mafume, said the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission that was mandated to deal with corruption was not independent, hence was not qualified to deal with issues of corruption in the country.
“It is under the President’s Office and is more of a political tool rather than a prosecuting authority. It has no power and independence,” said Mafume.
Mafume said Zimbabwe needed to urgently deal with corruption that has robbed the country of US$15 billion stolen from illicit diamond deals, defrauding the nation of four years worth of fiscal support.
“We have to deal with corruption if we are to get anywhere as a country. It is a killer and must be stopped because it is as bad as the epidemics that plague Africa. This will not be achieved through lip service,” said Mafume, adding that the US$1 billion corruptly siphoned out of the fiscus every year reflects poverty levels in Zimbabwe.
The TIZ 2016 report indicated that the State Procurement Board, ZIMRA and the Harare’s city health department were among the most corrupt institutions in Zimbabwe constituting 81, 64 and 48 percent respectively.
Although Zimbabwe ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption of 2007, among other agreements, corruption has continued to soar as the country infamously contributes a tenth to global corruption estimated at US$1 trillion annually.
And for a country with an annual budget of US$4,1 billion, much should be done to stop revenue leakages in a cash-strapped economy, Mutsvanga said.
Swedish Embassy, country director development cooperation, Maria Selin bemoaned the alarming state of corruption in the country.
“It is disheartening to note that corruption is now a part of everyday life in Zimbabwe. Corruption is a cost everyone calculates,” she said.
“If we are serious about development, we will fight corruption and make sure it does not pay,” Selin added.
A joint report by the African Development Bank and the Global Financial Report of May 2013 revealed that between 1980 and 2009, Zimbabwe cumulatively lost US$11,8 billion due to illicit resource transfers, a process that has culminated in the current economic situation.