- Last Updated on 22 February 2012
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For more than two weeks, Zimbabweans have been bombarded with reports of cases of rampant corruption in both the local and national governments. From the misuse and abuse of Community Development Funds by 10 Members of Parliament to the arrest of Chitungwiza Town Clerk, Godfrey Tanyanyiwa for defrauding council of over USD70,000 to the awarding of tenders to dubious companies by the State Procurement Board. What is clear from the reports is that corruption remains a cancer which is gnawing at the national fiscus and impeding development in the country.
Since independence cases of corruption have been reported. In the 90's government officials were implicated in the Willowgate Scandal and War Victims Compensation Fund. The reports circulated in the media are just a tip of the ice berg of the extent to which corruption has become entrenched in the country due to failure by public officials to operate transparently and remain accountable to citizens. The problem is further exacerbated by weak enforcement mechanisms within government. Bribes are paid on a daily basis to traffic police officers to avoid fines, to officials at the register general's office to acquire passports, to VID officials to 'purchase' driver's licences, while government officials are abstaining from paying their electricity and water bills. It is apparent that corruption remains rampant at all levels and has become an encumbrance to development in the country. Reports by the Comptroller General and Auditor, have in the past been met with disdain and inaction by law enforcement agents mainly because the enforcers of the law have themselves been accused of being at the centre of this rot.
In 2011, Zimbabwe was ranked 154 out of 182 countries in the Transparency International World Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). According to the report, 'unstable governments, often with a legacy of conflict, continue to dominate the bottom rungs of the CPI.' Despite the existence of an inclusive government in the country, corruption remains a major stumbling block to sustainable development. The absence of a democratic dispensation which fosters transparency and accountability further compounds the cancer.
The effect of corruption is felt mostly by ordinary citizens who bear the brunt of government mismanagement of resources. The CDF, which was used by some MPs for primitive accumulation of wealth and personal aggrandisement, was meant to bring relief to all constituencies which were deprived of development during the Mugabe regime. While some MPs used the resources to build bridges, schools and roads in their communities, others are facing arrest for failing to account for the USD50,000 which they received. Such corruption not only endangers the morals of the whole nation but also infringes on the development of the country as a whole.
Speaking before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Budget, Finance and Investment Promotion, Finance Minister Tendai Biti highlighted the fact that corruption affects development in all sectors of society. He said, in response to the awarding of tenders by the State Procurement Board to incompetent companies, 'The tender board has become a national crisis. They have become a fetter, 'chikwambo chaicho'. They are busy denying development in the country. The tender board is giving tenders to someone who cannot afford an undergarment'
In an interview with The Crisis Report, Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) Director, Ms. Mary Jane Ncube said,
'The situation is at its worst compared to 2 to 3 years ago because while it had been hoped that the Inclusive Government would lead to cutting of excesses, it seems the situation remains the same. Corruption is a crime of opportunity and access. Clearly if a country is being governed under weak management of resources, diverting to personal and private use takes place. The poor suffer more because public scrutiny is impeded by limitations to the Freedom of Expression and Lack of access to Information.'
It is apparent that the inclusive government needs to take measures to nip corruption in the bud as the continued plundering of resources by government and the lack of transparency and accountability within institutions continues to have a profound effect on the livelihoods of the poor majority.