Reform corruption commission now

If the government is honest about fighting spreading corruption in the public sector, as some top level officials have recently declared, it would do well by taking a long hard look at the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission.

Paul Bogaert
Paul Bogaert

ZACC should form the epicentre of probes into the numerous scandals that have rocked the country of late, in addition to the countless other instances of corruption in the past. Our constitution and statutes demand it to do so. Calls for a separate commission in the mode of the Sandura Commission of the late 1990s are irrelevant and unnecessary.

In its current form, ZACC is too crippled to deal with the burden it faces. It has no real teeth. The main problem is that the commission is marred by partisanship and fear. It is beholden to the Executive and cannot stand on its own. Thus, its independence is compromised and it cannot act according to the expectations of Zimbabwean citizens.

For example, it recently had to put its tail between its legs regarding the investigation of cabinet ministers and top executives with clear links to powerful individuals. It commendably launched probes into the dealings of several ministers, but when the alleged culprits flexed their muscles, ZACC backtracked. Needless to say, since its formation several years ago, ZACC has not discharged its duties in a satisfactory fashion. It had to be dragged to the Constitutional Court to force it to probe the former RBZ Governor, Gideon Gono, who has been accused of bribing its commissioners in the past.

ZACC is weak because of executive interference, a debilitating lack of independence, poor funding and a propensity to pander to the whims of its commissioners. Essentially, we would like to see the current commission disbanded as a matter of urgency. After that, in line with the provisions of the new constitution, we would like to see a new body being set up – in such a way that its components would be truly independent and professional. This should be done in the next two months, at the latest.

After that, government, through the finance ministry, should ensure that the commission has a professional and competent secretariat with its own offices and resources. A publicly endorsed code of conduct must then be adopted to guide the operations of the commissioners. The new commission would also need to be vested with prosecuting powers for it to be effective.

Without this, there is no way the government can persuade us that it is sincere about fighting corruption.

Post published in: Editor: Wilf Mbanga

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