Widespread Corruption Weakening COVID-19 Response

The 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) was released today by Transparency International, amid the COVID-19 global pandemic. An overview of the 2020 CPI Report reveals that endemic corruption is weakening governments’ response to the pandemic, further threatening people’s health and livelihoods. Zimbabwe maintained its 2019 score of 24 out of 100 with a global ranking of 157 out of 180 countries. This score is below the continent’s average of 32. The index ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption, according to experts and business people. It uses a scale of zero to 100, where zero is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.

Based on the report, “countries that perform well on the index invest more in health care and are better able to provide universal health coverage and are less likely to violate democratic norms and institutions or the rule of law.” In contrast, countries that do not perform well on the CPI are grappling to deal with the response to COVID-19 and other diseases. Corruption in Zimbabwe continues to have negative direct and indirect impact on the performance of the health care systems, especially public health. Corruption has undermined the government’s ability to respect, protect and fulfil the right to health, as public resources are continuously diverted for private gain, even during pandemics. A case in point is that of the former Minister of Health and Child Care Obadiah Moyo who was dismissed from public office on allegations of illegally awarding a multi-million-dollar contract for the supply of COVID-19 medical supplies and personal protective equipment to a shelf company. It is therefore evident that the failed health system in Zimbabwe is exacerbated by the misappropriation and embezzlement of public funds.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been declared a health crisis globally, however, for countries with endemic levels of corruption such as Zimbabwe it is also an economic crisis. Whilst the government made efforts in mitigating the economic and livelihood impacts of COVID-19 on the poor and vulnerable groups through dedicated relief packages, there are concerns regarding the lack of transparency and accountability thereof. Thus, Zimbabwe’s score on the CPI is reflective of the country’s level of transparency and accountability in relation to the use of public funds.

In this regard, it is evident that COVID-19 has become more than just a health and economic crisis. It has presented opportunities for corruption to thrive and has therefore become a corruption crisis; which requires anti-corruption and governance approaches to safeguard public resources and guarantee socio-economic rights as enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

Recommendations

Transparency International Zimbabwe therefore implores the government of Zimbabwe to:

  1. Strengthen anti- corruption agencies and oversight institutions. Anti-Corruption agencies such as the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission and the National Prosecuting Authority must be capacitated financially and technically so that they diligently exercise their duties. These institutions should also be afforded operational independence as stated in the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
  2. Adopt a whistle blower protection law. In order to facilitate reporting of corruption and abuse of public office, TI Z encourages the government to come up with a whistle blower policy that protects whistle blowers. This will enable the public to timely report corruption without fear of victimisation.
  3. Protect and respect constitutional rights such as the freedom to demonstrate and petition, freedom of expression and access to information. This will ensure that civil society, citizens, and the media contribute to the fight against corruption and are able to hold government and public officials accountable.
  4. Adopt open and transparent contracting to ensure that public procurement is effected in a manner that is transparent, fair, honest, cost effective and competitive, consistent with section 315 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
  5. Adequately fund the implementation of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy.

Source: Transparency International Zimbabwe

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