Lloyd Gumbo Mr Speaker Sir
One of the major threats to Zimbabwe’s quest for economic development is corruption. As such, mega deals that were signed with China will not bring the much-needed economic turnaround if corruption and rent seeking behaviour by those in charge of implementation of the deals is left to thrive. Mr Speaker Sir, there is no need to question whether or not the illegal sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the West have had debilitating effects on the economy because that is the reason they were imposed.
There is also no need to ignore the fact that climate change, which coincided with the fast-track land redistribution exercise, has hampered agricultural productivity which is the country’s economic backbone.
But if truth be told without fear or favour, our man-made actions, commissions or omissions have significantly impacted on the country’s economic revival. Government parastatals and enterprises as well as ministries have failed us by sins of commissions and omissions.
For a long time, it has been so glaring that some Government officials and some in charge of parastatals and enterprises were using their positions to loot.
And this was allowed to continue for a long time on the altar of political expediency or lack of vigilance from their superiors.
Mr Speaker Sir, President Mugabe raised a very important point when he officially opened the Zanu-PF 15th Annual National People’s Conference in Victoria Falls last Friday about how corruption threatened development.
“It might be you or a group of people assigned to negotiate with the other side we want to work with, be it in building a bridge or constructing roads, you then go and demand a cut before the construction is even done,” President Mugabe said.
“They say if the actual cost is $10 million, they peg it at $13 million and tell the Chinese that the project cost has risen yet the $3 million will be theirs for sharing. Ndocorruption iri kuitika kunyanya yerudzi irworwo.”
There are allegations that some senior Government officials have used their positions to inflate figures for projects that are carried out here with the intention of pocketing excess.
This is where the problem is, that these things can happen when we have offices that must detect such vices.
Surely, these things cannot happen under the watch of a Central Intelligence Organisation and the police, who are known for their vigilance when it comes to detecting criminal activities.
No action must be too complicated and or beyond the CIO’s eye.
But it is also the responsibility of authorities to ensure that when the organisation report such vices, culprits must face the music and not be protected.
The moment authorities do not display through actions a commitment to fight corruption especially within the top echelons of Government, it takes the zeal away from those mandated with detecting corruption.
Mr Speaker Sir, no official deserves protection when they are found to have abused their positions to steal from the public.
Corruption is the major reason the economy is facing a threatening downward spiral and the earlier we plug the loopholes, the better.
It is incumbent upon every Zimbabwean to ensure that corruption is nipped in the bud.
There are indications that procurement is one of the feeding troughs for corruption within Government ministries, parastatals and enterprises.
Audit reports have over the years exposed how officials in these institutions inflate figures of goods and services that they procure with the intention of fleecing the institutions that they lead.
An example is when an audit report by the Ministry of Health and Child Care in 2013 unearthed a massive scam at Chivhu General Hospital where officials flouted tender procedures, inflated and created fictitious quotations with the sole purpose of looting from the hospital.
However, the only punishment that some culprits faced was to be transferred to other health centres instead of subjecting them to a criminal trial.
Unfortunately, this has become the trend where culprits are only brought before a disciplinary committee where the charge will not be commensurate with the crime committed.
It is therefore important that Government show genuine commitment to fight corruption by letting senior officials accused of corruption to stand before a court of law to defend themselves.
Now that Government is in the process of decentralising procurement of goods and services to ministries, parastatals and enterprises from the State Procurement Board, there are high chances that this good gesture by the Government may come back to haunt it if no mechanisms are put in place to ensure there are no gaps for rent seeking behaviour.
President Mugabe put it in the most understandable context when he said when officials inflate figures for projects it is the generality of Zimbabwe who stand to lose out because the loans would be serviced from public funds.
“It’s a cost to be borne by the people. “It is a loan and it is the Government budget that will pay that. You are making the people pay more on the project which should cost them less and you are doing it for your own benefit. Down with you! Hatidi, patinenge tazvibatisisa chaipo, you will go to prison.
“If you are to be the engineer of the project, do your work objectively, you will be paid for it. Do not seek to cheat. We will discover you this time. Some do it in a clever way, but we will get you,” said President Mugabe.
Mr Speaker Sir, Zimbabwe is endowed with precious minerals that are exploited and sold every second but we have nothing to show for all that is extracted from the ground.
For example, we definitely have nothing to show for the diamonds that were exploited in Chiadzwa since their discovery, neither do we have anything to show for the gold and platinum that continues to be extracted here.
Yet other countries credit their economic growth and performance to the same minerals that we have here.
The question is who is pocketing the rest? Our national budget has been hovering around $4 billion annually since the inclusive Government which shows that there is something wrong with the manner in which we managed the national resource.