Yesterday Thursday the 9th of December 2021, Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET) joined the rest of the world in marking International Anti-Corruption Day which was running under the theme “Your Right, your Role: Say no to Corruption”.
This day has been celebrated annually since 2003 when the United Nations Convention against Corruption was passed with the aim of raising public awareness on the detrimental effects of corruption. Corruption is now a societal ill globally that brings with it increased inequality and having a derailing influence on attainment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The COVID-19 pandemic, being a global health emergency, caught many governments flat footed and their responses in as far as purchasing of medical supplies was concerned, saw briefcase companies fronted by cronies of government officials being awarded tenders to supply goods at over inflated prices. In Zimbabwe, one of such instances claimed the scalp of the then Minister of Health and Child Welfare. It is regrettable however, that the corruption did not end there, but continued in the social protection intervention where relief funds for the vulnerable run through what was termed the Harmonized Cash Transfer System that saw millions of dollars looted as revealed by the Office of the Auditor General in August 2021. With new strains of COVID-19 continuing to manifest, fears are real that the grounds for corruption remain fertile should no firm action be taken against those found in the wrong.
The 2013 Constitution of Zimbabwe established a body to fight corruption called the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Committee (ZACC) however, to date it has not seen any meaningful prosecutions on acts of corruption. It is VISET’S contention that if there is to be a firm commitment to fighting corruption, then there must be full autonomy granted to bodies such as ZACC and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
If corruption is continually allowed to flourish unchecked, leads to the breakdown of social services as public funds will be diverted from providing health, education and social welfare for citizens, to the hands of the connected few. It is not lost on us that there are also unsavory corrupt practices in the private sector such as tax evasion and externalization through transfer pricing and we call this out unreservedly. At local government level, we continue to witness the detrimental effects of corruption on service delivery, as seen in the case of Harare City Council where there are only two substantive directors running Council, with the others being suspended on various allegations of corruption. The societal scourge of corruption also manifests itself in the everyday life of a vendor as one has to pay extra costs for almost everything, from being coerced to pay bribes for market allocations, to sometimes having to bribe policing authorities in order to evade arrests.
It thus becomes incumbent upon the government to ensure there are measures to swiftly prosecute acts of corruption and put in safeguards such as legislation of measures such as the Whistleblowers Act if this fight is to be won.