African Parliamentarians Network Against Corruption (APNAC, Zimbabwe)
“Promoting a Strong, Ethical and Accountable Parliament
May I begin by extending my sincere gratitude to the African Parliamentarians Network Against Corruption in Zimbabwe (APNAC) for extending an invitation to me to deliver the keynote address at this workshop.
The formation of APNAC in 1999 came at a time when the continent was grappling with how to handle endemic corruption in the private and public sectors. With this realisation National Parliaments in Africa came together to exercise their Constitutional roles of representation, oversight and legislating with more diligence. Therefore, the birth of APNAC was well-received by the Parliament of Zimbabwe, as seen in the establishment of the APNAC Zimbabwe Chapter by Parliamentarians to fight corruption. The objectives of APNAC are commendable as they address the issues that Members of Parliament encounter in the fight against corruption. Today, APNAC members in Zimbabwe have great influence on numerous sectors of Government. We have seen their increased involvement in the budget formulation process and its expenditure thereafter by Government and its institutions. Therefore I encourage APNAC Zimbabwe to extend its fight against corruption to corporate entities, parastatals and private individuals.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The question of accountability and transparency in the use of public funds must not end in the scrutiny of Government, but Members of Parliament themselves must also be accountable. In other words we must practice what we preach. In this light, I welcome the stance taken by the Minister of Constitutional Affairs and the Anti-Corruption Commission in investigating allegations of corruption levelled against MPs. It is my sincere hope that these investigations are not targeting certain individuals, but are carried out in good faith on all MPs regardless of political affiliation.
The work of APNAC would not be complete if it did not encourage its own members to be accountable, honest, objective, have integrity, and exercise transparency. These values are exercised not only in the personal lives of the APNAC members, but more so in their official capacities, during the course and scope of their work as Parliamentarians. These values call for an approach to Parliament work that is ethical and selfless, an approach that seeks to put the electorate first before one’s interests, and an approach that retains the confidence of the nation at large in the institution of Parliament. As one of the three arms of the State, Parliament’s independence relies largely on how its members conduct themselves as they carry out their duties. MPs must guard Parliament’s independence jealously, so as not to compromise its constitutional roles.
To this end, the Parliament of Zimbabwe has endeavoured to adopt a “Code of Conduct and Ethics for Members of Parliament” in terms of the Provision 19 of the Standing Orders of Parliament. Let me quickly add, Hon. Members, that a “Code of Conduct” is not a new concept. We inherited this from the British Parliamentary system, like many other Parliamentary practises we observe in our Parliament today. The need for a “Code of Conduct” is recognised throughout the Commonwealth and indeed, in our own region as seen in South Africa and… A “Code of Conduct” is developed, approved and implemented by the Members of Parliament themselves, as a standard for ethical conduct. It guides Members of Parliament on acceptable behaviour that they must observe as they serve in a democratic institution. The “Code of Conduct” also promotes public scrutiny of MPs as the elected representatives of the people.
A standard “Code of Conduct and Ethics” also requires Members of Parliaments to disclose their financial interests by registering them in a Register of Assets. In Zimbabwe, the Standing Orders of Parliament state that this registration must be done in accordance with the “Code of Conduct and Ethics”, and the registration book is to be maintained under the direction of the Speaker of the House of Assembly. The purpose of this registration is to make clear what interests might reasonably be thought to influence an MP’s parliamentary duties. It is therefore accepted that the MP must ensure that the registered assets are accurate and up-to-date.
Allow me, Hon. Members, to elaborate on the situation prevailing at Parliament of Zimbabwe with respect to the “Code of Conduct and Ethics”.
A “Code of Conduct and Ethics for Members of Parliament” was approved by the Standing Rules and Orders Committee (SROC) of the 6th Parliament. It was then left to the Leadership of that Parliament to implement this “Code of Conduct”. Unfortunately, the “Code of Conduct” gathered dust on the shelves of Parliament, and has not seen the light of day up to today. In my term of office, I have made enquiries into the “Code of Conduct”. Let me point out to you that my office is committed in ensuring that all Members of Parliament sign a “Code of Conduct and Ethics” and register their financial interests according to the Standing Orders of Parliament. However, as we reflect on the implementation of the “Code of Conduct”, let us remember that there is no legal instrument to compel the registration of financial interests by Members of Parliament. Therefore there is need for Parliament to enact a law that will criminalise an MP’s failure to abide by the “Code of Conduct” and register his/her financial interests on assumption of office.
It is clear that our Parliament has neither implemented the “Code of Conduct”, nor registered the financial interests of its Members. This is an undesirable situation in which our Parliament finds itself in. It then leads one to ask the question: are MPs qualified to champion the fight against corruption if they themselves are not subject to public scrutiny? In other words: Who watches the watchmen? (Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?) Members of APNAC, who are in the first place Members of Parliament, have a duty to implement the “Code of Conduct and Ethics” for the Parliament of Zimbabwe. Let them be counted among the Parliaments that are morally upright, ethical and accountable to their electorate.
In conclusion, I am extending my support to APNAC Zimbabwe and its work, and I would like to take this opportunity to encourage its members to continue in the fight against corruption. It is my sincere hope that this workshop will leave a lasting mark on the participants, and stir them into action. I stand ready to receive suggestions from Members of Parliament on the way forward with the “Code of Conduct and Ethics” for the Parliamentarians of Zimbabwe.
I wish you fruitful deliberations.Post published in: News