LRF calls on govt to take action on corruption

We as the Legal Resources Foundation stand together with Transparency International Zimbabwe in advocating for transparency, accountability and good corporate governance in the public sector.

We are alarmed by media reports which continue to bring to light disturbing accounts of top management in parastatals, councils and the public sector in general plundering public resources at the expense of service provision, which in most cases is deplorable.

The absence of good corporate governance, accountability and transparency in the public sector has been brought to the fore through recent shocking revelations on salaries and allowances paid to management and board members of public sector institutions such as PSMAS and ZBC, as well as the reported corrupt flouting of tender processes at some public institutions.

The revelations pertaining to hefty salary packages for senior management and similar allowances for board members, opaqueness in the tender processes at public institutions and alleged embezzlement of funds in the public sector all speak of high levels of corruption being prevalent in such institutions.

Shocking

The revelations are coming at a time when public institutions are underperforming, and failing to deliver on their obligations due to poor financial performance.

In an ailing economy where 56.1% of the population live on $1,25 a day it is naturally shocking to learn that CEOs superintending largely underperforming public institutions earn monthly salaries ranging from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

What is further disheartening is that employees in most of these institutions have been going for months without salaries as a result of poor financial performance or poor financial management.

The devastating effects of profligacy and malfeasance in the public sector are far reaching and mostly felt by the poor who fail to access basic services because the resources meant for such purposes are abused, ill-deployed or plundered by those who are supposed to be the stewards.

Greatest fear

The greatest fear that most Zimbabweans have at the moment is that government may fail to deal with the current challenges decisively and effectively, with the result that corruption will continue to thrive in the public sector. We are encouraged by the position taken by Parliamentarians across the divide in introducing and debating a motion on corruption.

We encourage Parliamentarians also to insist on mechanisms for enforcement by government of all the statutory provisions under respective establishing Acts setting up state-owned enterprises. Most of the parastatals and public sector institutions are required by law to submit their audited annual financial accounts to respective line ministries who, in turn, will have the accounts tabled before Parliament for scrutiny.

We call on the Executive to support the Parliamentarians and ensure that those fingered in corrupt activities of any nature in this regard are dealt with accordingly.

Adverse effect

Zimbabwe was ranked 157 out of 177 countries in the global Transparency International 2013 Corruption Perception Index. The impact of these disclosures will have a very adverse effect on our efforts to attract critical foreign direct investment which is needed to rebuild the economy.

We call upon government to investigate all public sector entities, including those not yet named and to apply appropriate sanctions where there is evidence of malpractice. This is the first step which government must take to show its commitment to the fight against corruption.

In addition, government ought to give effect to constitutional provisions set out in Section 194 of the Constitution pertaining to the values and principles governing public administration. Given the high levels of corruption and mismanagement characterising some public sector institutions it is imperative that the Government urgently enacts the legislation which will give effect to Section 194 of the Constitution.

Competence & integrity

To foster good corporate governance we advocate that board appointments to most critical public sector institutions be made in an open and transparent manner and that only those with the requisite competencies be appointed to such boards. The appointment of board members should not be left to the discretion of line ministers alone.

A framework must be put in place to ensure that people with the requisite competence and integrity are appointed to exercise an oversight role in such institutions.

It is proposed further that nominees for appointment are subjected to probity and that public interviews be conducted for purposes of appointments to public sector boards as is already the case in other jurisdictions.

In order to enhance accountability and transparency in the public sector, we call upon the government to put in place systems, mechanisms and a legal framework which will ensure that the public has access to information on how such institutions are performing financially, together with salaries, benefits and allowances for both management and board members.

Disclosure of information to the public is critical in the fight against corruption in the public sector and it also ensures accountability on the part of management and the Boards that oversee them.

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