IF gold rusts, what shall iron do?
This is the question on citizens’ minds following reports of corruption and maladministration in Parliament and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission.
Last month, the nation wake up to news that Parliament administration led by clerk Kennedy Chokuda had agreed to a tender for the supply of laptops at US$9 000 each.
The matter only came to light when a leaked letter by Treasury through secretary for Finance and Economic Development George Guvamatanga announced that the ministry had reservations on a tender awarded to Blinart Investments (Private) Limited by Parliament for the supply of 173 laptops priced at US$9264.48 each, translating to US$1 602 755.77.
Under pressure from various stakeholders amid a public outcry, Parliament finally cancelled the tender it awarded to the shadowy company.
At present, Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) led by Gweru Urban MP and seasoned lawyer Brian Dube, is seized with other cases that reek of corruption, judging from the way the august House’s administration handled public funds in 2019 and 2020.
The sad reality of these developments is that Parliament is a constitutional institution expected to be incorruptible, given its oversight role on the executive.
Besides the other two roles of making laws (legislative) and representing citizens, Parliament’s other mandate is to put checks on the executive and guard against all forms of corruption.
The oversight role entails the informal and formal, watchful, strategic and structured scrutiny exercised by the legislature in respect of the implementation of laws, the application of the budget and the strict observance of statutes and the constitution.
Now that Parliament itself has proven to be corrupt, its capacity to tackle the vice has been put in question.
It is useful to note that oversight extends to the monitoring of the performance of government departments through establishing compliance with rules and regulations as well as other best practices where there are no formalised procedures.
In terms of the provisions of the constitution of Zimbabwe, as well as standing orders, Parliament has power to exercise oversight on all organs of state, including those at provincial and local government levels.
Tafadzwa Chikumbu, the Transparency International of Zimbabwe (TIZ) director, said section 119 of the constitution is clear about how Parliament must be an institution that abides by strict accountability and integrity.
“The fact that every other institution must be accountable to Parliament does not mean that Parliament itself is immune to accountability. It is therefore betrayal to the people of Zimbabwe that Parliament is being entangled with cases of corruption,” he said.
Recently it also emerged that the Zacc had failed to produce supporting documents to validate its expenditure in the previous year to Auditor-General Mildred Chiri.
In her report on state-owned enterprises and entities, Chiri said the audit findings warranted the attention of management and those charged with governance.
“The commission did not fully comply with the provisions of International Accounting Standards (IAS 21), ‘The Effects of Changes in Foreign Exchange Rates’ as Statutory Instrument 33 of 2019 precluded the commission from applying an independent assessment of functional currency as required by the accounting standard and in terms of the guidance provided by the Public Accountants and Auditors Board (PAAB),” Chiri said.
After Parliament, the nation looks up to Zacc insofar as weeding out corruption is concerned. It is tragic that both Parliament and Zacc are themselves not clean.
TIZ boss Chikumbu told The NewsHawks that the absence of the supporting documents on how Zacc spent public funds suggested that money may have been looted.
“Zacc is a critical institution of accountability and transparency. Given their mandate, they should also be exemplary in the management of public resources. It is a cause for concern to note that there is unclear utilisation of public resources at Zacc,” he said.
Obert Chinhamo, the director of the Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa (ACT-SA), added that it is imperative that those who have betrayed the vision of good governance at Parliament and Zacc be brought to book.
“Institutions of integrity must be exemplary in terms of procurement and financial transparency and accountability. We hope that all those responsible are brought to book. The earlier this is done, the better, since it tarnishes the image of the country,” he said.