FINANCE and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa has once again raised a red flag over the endemic matter of corruption in Zimbabwe. This time around, Minister Chinamasa trained his eagle eye on the State Procurement Board.
Speaking at a “Buy Zimbabwe” procurement conference in Harare earlier this week, Minister Chinamasa noted that there were murky deals in the awarding of tenders in both Government and the private sector.
He noted that sometimes deserving companies failed to win tenders to supply materials while briefcase companies without the capacity to deliver were awarded such contracts.
Minister Chinamasa described the country’s tendering system as the “capital city of corruption” which had the effect of increasing the cost of doing business in the country.
He said he had to intervene in some cases to get the job done.
The minister said it was important to do “due diligence” on all companies tendering for contracts because often some of them “come to bid yet they don’t own anything,” he said.
He said it was vital to eliminate middlemen and the collusion between members of the SPB and briefcase companies.
We have seen instances of this in the ongoing probe at CMED where some companies reportedly won tenders to supply fuel which they didn’t have.
“When you talk about corruption, be it in Government or the private sector, first look at the procurement system,” Minister Chinamasa said, describing it as “central” to the economic value chain.
But he pointed out, “This is the capitalist city of corruption.”
The issue of corruption has been raised at many private and public fora.
It is a cancer that even President Mugabe has acknowledged. It pervades all sectors of society, and now has spread to politics and churches.
Unfortunately, the law enforcement agencies themselves, particularly the police, who should be apprehending the suspects, have not acquitted themselves well. Roadblocks along the country’s highways have allegedly turned into havens for extortion and other forms of corruption.
This has helped defy the adage, “set a thief to catch a thief”. In Zimbabwe we have thieves protecting each other.
Corruption by its very nature is very difficult to detect as it involves people who know and agree to break the law. This is why it is often so difficult to detect and combat it.
There was some excitement earlier this year when media exposed corruption in most Government or state-linked entities. There was hope that finally something was being done.
It turned out in the end that it was probably easier to expose misdemeanours as corruption than it was to make the charges stick. As a result, the State could not prosecute those suspected of gross corruption.
What all this has done is to expose the country’s lack of training and capacity to prove corruption and that a crime has been committed.
Thus while it is important that Minister Chinamasa is once again casting the spotlight on corruption in the tendering system, people are justified to be less enthusiastic about any practical steps being taken.
Will offenders be exposed and tried this time around? People want action.