Weed out corruption…starting with the police

Zimbabwe signed and ratified the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption and Related Offences. However, efforts to deal with corruption in the country are mostly unsuccessful.

Top officials like Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri should disclose their assets.
Top officials like Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri should disclose their assets.

For example, in 2011 Zimbabwe ranked 154 out of 182 countries in terms of its corruption rate. There have been countless reports on corruption cases involving public officials, civil servants or politicians since the 1980s. The abuse of public power, bribery and the embezzlement of public funds are well known, therefore the government must deal with this institutionalized corruption.

Police corruption

The police force is the most corrupt institution in the country, a point which was recently cemented by the Transparency International-Zimbabwe study. Institutions such as the police force give character to the government and the public sector in general. Therefore, the police should always strive to maintain their integrity.

If corruption is to be fought in Zimbabwe, it should start with the police, for the simple reason that they are the major culprits and also because they are the ones expected to root out corruption. Consequently, measures should be put in place to deal with corruption within the police force and I propose asset declaration as a starting point.

Declaration of assets by police is a means through which police officers are required to disclose their income, wealth and liabilities in order to document increases or decreases of their assets. It obliges police officers to make full, regular and public disclosures of their assets. This does not just create accountability and transparency in the force, it can also enhance the integrity of the public sector.

Backed by the law

In order for this to be effective, it ought to be supported and backed by legal and institutional means. The AU anti-corruption convention actually makes it mandatory for its signatories to declare the assets of designated public officials.

Many police officers have amassed riches beyond their pay checks. It is a well-known and unfortunate fact that some officers illicit bribes in return for services. Monitoring the wealth of the police is the starting point for weeding out corruption in our society.

World examples

Police officers should have to declare their assets when they come into office, while they are in office and when they leave the force. This should apply to every rank of officer.

The Indian Government recently directed police officers to declare their assets and those of their family members in an attempt to curb corruption within the police service.

In Ghana, the Public Office Holders (Declaration of Assets and Disqualification) Act functions as a tool to prevent corruption. Such legislations also exist in South Africa and Botswana. South Africa has implemented conflict of interest codes requiring disclosure of financial interests by public officials.

Elected officials and senior managers in the civil service and their spouses publicly disclose all their financial interests. These include shares and interests in companies, land and property owned, paid outside employment, directorships and partnerships.

We need top officials like Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri to disclose their shares, land and property to avoid a conflict of interest in their occupation of public offices. Such measures have a preventive function, as potential conflicts of interest can be anticipated before misconduct occurs.

There is also a need for political will to make sure the legislations are formulated and implemented. – Darlington Gama can be contacted at [email protected]

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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