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Don’t exempt state entities from scrutiny: Watchdogs



GOVERNANCE watchdogs has demanded that President Emmerson Mnangagwa discard his gazetted General Notice 164B of 2024 which exempts 21 key state entities from complying with the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act, saying the government’s commitment to promoting transparency and accountability is questionable.


Last week, the government gazetted the general notice, but did not state how Parliament would exercise its oversight functions to promote good governance.

Zimbabwe’s corruption fight is in a shambles, resulting in the country scoring badly on the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI).

The country scored 24/100, from 23/100 in 2023, falling behind the regional average of 33/100, while ranking 149 out of 180 of the most corrupt countries across the world, according to the latest CPI released by civil society organisation Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ).

The country maintained its position as southern Africa’s most corrupt country, according to the 2023 CPI report. The index measures perceptions of public sector corruption levels in 180 countries around the world.

The entities Mnangagwa has unilaterally exempted from scrutiny are: AFC Commercial Bank Limited, Aurex (Private) Limited, Bindura Nickel Corporation Limited, Fidelity Gold Refinery (Private) Limited, Freda Rebecca Gold Mine Limited, Great Dyke Investments (Private) Limited, HomeLink (Private) Limited, Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe (IDBZ), Jena Mines (Private) Limited, Kuvimba Mining House (Private) Limited, National Venture Company (Private) Limited, NetOne Cellular (Private) Limited, Printing and Minting Company of Zimbabwe (Private) Limited, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, RESZIM Investments (Private) Limited, Sandawana Mines (Private) Limited, Shamva Mining Company (Private) Limited, Tel-One (Private) Limited, The People’s Own Savings Bank of Zimbabwe, Trojan Nickel Mine Limited, Zimbabwe Alloys Limited.

This week, a natural resources watchdog, the Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG), said the exemption of these entities from compliance with the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act undermines transparency and accountability.

“We call upon the government to set aside this proclamation and uphold the principles of transparency, accountability, sustainable development and, above all, the constitution of Zimbabwe. We call upon Parliament to exercise its oversight role by summoning responsible ministers to explain President Mnangagwa’s reasons for circumventing the constitutional and legislative provisions for procurement of goods and services by public entities,” CNRG said.

“Furthermore, removing certain companies from the procurement laws could also have negative consequences for the environment and local communities at a time environmental crimes are on the rise.”

“Proper environmental assessments, social impact studies, and community consultations are integral parts of the procurement process. Circumventing these procedures poses the risk of irreversible environmental damage and further marginalisation of local communities who rely on these resources for their livelihoods.”

In May last year, a similar General Notice 635 of 2023 surfaced, announcing the exemption of public procurement of construction equipment and materials, biomedical and medical equipment, medicines and drugs, vehicles including ambulances, laboratory equipment, chemicals and accessories, hospital protective equipment, and repairs and maintenance servicing of hospital equipment and machinery.

However, the move was thwarted by an alert media, sparking a public outcry, resulting in then Chief Secretary to the Office of the President and Cabinet Misheck Sibanda saying that the government notice was fake.

Critics however said the publishing and withdrawal of the notice showed that there is confusion in the government, mainly fuelled by internal power struggles in the regime which has two political factions, one led by President Mnangagwa and the other one by his deputy Constantino Chiwenga, battling to control the levers of state power and resources.

This week, the Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa (ACT-SA) told The NewsHawks that Mnangagwa should consider reversing the decree to ensure transparency.

“The purpose of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act is to ensure transparency, accountability, and efficiency in public sector transactions. This is noble and every leader should be seen to be promoting these values,” Obert Chinhamo, the ACT-SA director, told The NewsHawks.

“I suspect that he might have been ill-advised since the exemptions create a fertile ground for unrestricted looting, chicanery and personal enrichment. This swims upstream against international best practice. The President should reconsider his decision and reverse it. We demand more and more transparency in state-owned enterprises.”

Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (Zimcodd) programmes manager John Maketo said the exemption of the 21 entities is an enabler of corruption.

“Corruption thrives in darkness. Preferential treatments and lack of public scrutiny are enablers for corruption. Opportunity plus rationale create fertile ground for corruption. In this case we see more opportunity for underhand dealings,” Maketo said.

A natural resources watchdog, the Centre for Research and Development (CRD), said exemption of major mining conglomerates implicated in corruption shows that Zimbabwe is becoming a full-blown kleptocracy.

In a kleptocracy, corrupt politicians enrich themselves secretly outside the rule of law, through kickbacks, bribes, and special favours from lobbyists and corporations, or they simply direct state funds to themselves and their associates.

“This means the establishment of kleptocracy. The closed door policy is meant to mask opacity in beneficial shareholding,” said James Mupfumi, the CRD director.

“It is only a few months ago that a chief executive officer at the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) lost his job for rejecting a forced purchase of shares worth an inflated US$400 million including inflated consultancy fees to a private platinum mining entity in the Great Dyke owned by the usual suspects. Without oversight, it is clear that these entities will serve the interests of political elites and their private investors.”

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