Christopher F. Charamba Political Writer
In January 2018, African leaders gathered for their annual retreat in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, committed themselves, once again, to combating corruption.
At the opening ceremony of the 30th Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU), the continental body launched their theme for the year, “Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation”
Speaking, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said, “Corruption is indeed one of the greatest evils of our time.
“Corruption rewards those who do not play by the rules and also creates a system of distortion and diversion thereby destroying all efforts at constructive, just and fair governance.”
Leaders at the AU agreed to enforce the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption, a policy adopted in July 2003, but as of December 2018, 40 of 55 countries had ratified it.
They recognised that critical to dealing with the problem, was the need for strong and independent institutions that were committed to carrying out their duties sans fear or favour.
“We must adequately empower our national anti-corruption agencies and insulate them from political influence.
“We have to encourage increased institutional collaboration between law enforcement agencies and anti-corruption agencies in order to win this fight,” commented President Buhari
Last week, the chairman of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission along with all the commissioners resigned from their positions.
No reasons were given for their resignation, but the State now has the opportunity to rebrand and strengthen the anti-corruption body when new appointments are made.
According to the recently published Corruption Perception Index, produced by Transparency International, Zimbabwe ranks 160 out of 180 countries with a low 22 /100 score.
The score has been consistent over the last three years, with the country last moving up from 21 to 22 points in 2016.
While the talk of dealing with corruption has been widespread, it is in the action and implementation that little has been yielded.
If Zimbabwe is truly to be open for business, this is a major hurdle that the country needs to overcome.
In the past, ZACC has failed not only in effectively dealing with the scourge — of which numerous suspected incidents have been reported by the Office of the Auditor-General under Mildred Chiri — but the Commission has also had to deal with corruption within its own ranks.
March 2015 saw the chief executive of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission Ngonidzashe Gumbo imprisoned for defrauding the commission of $435 000.
Gumbo was also a former Senior Assistant Commissioner of the Zimbabwe Republic Police.
So what needs to be done to tackle corruption in Zimbabwe? It starts with political will.
The chairperson of the commission along with the other eight commissioners are all appointed by the President in consultation with the Parliamentary Committee on Standing Rules and Orders (CSRO).
This committee is comprised of a number of different political actors including the Speaker of Parliament, Minister of Finance, Leader of Government Business, Leader of the Opposition and Chief Whips of all parties represented in Parliament.
Tasked to recommend names to the President, the CSRO, needs to consider the calibre of commissioners that can effectively carry out their duties in dealing with corruption in Zimbabwe.
The consultation process and the appointments need to be non-partisan and transparent. In addition to the constitutional provisions, there should be a clear criteria and benchmark for the nominees to meet.
Considering the critical nature of the appointments, it would in fact be sensible to have public interviews similar to those members of the Judiciary are subjected to.
Strong institutions are the pillars of dealing with corruption, but there are other measures that the Government and the wider public need to consider.
Some suggestions by the World Bank include paying civil servants well, as studies show “there is an inverse relationship between the level of public sector wages and incidence of corruption”.
Another is creating transparency and openness in Government spending. The Auditor-General’s report has year-after-year showed how ministries and public institutions had poor corporate governance, abused fund accounts, flouted procurement procedures among other corrupt practices.
The Government needs to fully investigate these findings, deal with the perpetrators, and implement the recommendations put forward.
A major consideration for the Government in fighting corruption is cutting red tape and improving the ease of doing business. Aligning laws to the Constitution is the fundamental first step in this process, similar to suggestions proffered by Rose-Ackerman (1998).
The World Bank also proposes deploying smart technology. In India, an online platform “I Paid a Bribe” allows the public to anonymously report where and when they were coerced to engage in corruption or when they received good service.
Although the system is not fool-proof, it provides a means for corruption to be exposed and a record of offences.
A year after the AU pledged to win the fight against corruption, the battle rages on. How to deal with the problem has already been defined, discussed and debated. What remains is getting the job done.