Herbert Zharare Assistant Business Editor
Government has started a cleansing process targeting unlawful and illegitimate transactions, money laundering, externalisation of foreign currency and underground foreign exchange deals, Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa has said.
This comes as Government has granted a moratorium on individuals and corporates who externalised money to return it within three months or face prosecution.
Presenting his 2018 National Budget proposals at Parliament yesterday, Minister Chinamasa said over the years, corruption had spread unchecked, undermining the social and moral fabric of the nation.
“Corruption and market indiscipline also increase the cost of doing business, and encourage rent-seeking behaviour, thereby increasing hardships for the general public. His Excellency, the President (Mnangagwa), in his inauguration speech, underscored that this syndrome will be decisively dealt with,” he said.
- Workers above 65 years of age to be retired.
- Recruitment frozen.
- Voluntary retirement scheme offered.
- Cuts in staff benefits loom.
- Redundant officers to be retired.
- Rationalisation of youth officers.
- 528 unqualified Public Service members to go.
- First class air travel for most Govt officers banned.
- Vehicle scheme for senior Govt officials reviewed.
- Indigenisation law revised.
Minister Chinamasa said digitalisation of financial services needs to be speeded up to make it difficult for people to engage in dishonest and corrupt practices.
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“Further intensification of Government interventions to curb incidences of corruption, plug revenue leakages, as well as arrest market indiscipline, will also buttress the successful implementation of the 2018 Budget,” he said.
As such, across all Government agencies, Minister Chinamasa said the quality of service would be required to be more facilitative and devoid of corrupt practices.
“This is moreso as Zimbabwe competes with its regional neighbours for investment, business and tourism,” he said. “Appeals from stakeholders also make it necessary that such Government agencies as the police, ZIMRA, EMA, VID, etc revisit their mandates and service charters to avoid kuswera vakamira pama roadblocks in large numbers” extorting money from the public.
“Public perceptions to the effect that ukangowona mupurisa, ZIMRA, EMA, VID etc wotoziva kuti mari yave kubuda are not conducive to a country’s development,” he said.
Treasury authority had been granted to various agencies of Government to retain for their own utilisation earnings, fees and fines that would ordinarily be surrendered to the Consolidated Revenue Fund, he said.
“Regrettably, this dispensation is increasingly also being abused as agencies depart from their core mandates and focus on revenue raising, also with corrupt practices and extortionist tendencies permeating in.
“Consequently, over and above the transparency arrangements for retentions being ushered in by the 2018 Budget, Treasury will not hesitate to withdraw Retention Authority where the above practices are reported.”
For purposes of encouraging whistle-blowers who have vital information which could aid in combating corruption in the public sector to come forward, Minister Chinamsa said the 2018 Budget had also proposed that facilities or hotlines be established specifically for the purpose.
He said state institutions charged with tackling corruption would be required to demonstrate a higher degree of transparency in order to monitor the progress.
“As such, State institutions set up to combat corruption and crime, such as the National Prosecuting Authority, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission and the Zimbabwe Republic Police, will be required to publish reports once every quarter giving statistics on the: number of arrests made; number of successful prosecutions or convictions; and value of money or property recovered, as a result of their interventions,” said Minister Chinamasa.
“Furthermore, demonstrable efforts to recover proceeds of criminal activities through the institution of civil process against the offenders, in terms of section 4 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act [Chapter 9:07], will be called for,” he said.
He said easy and ready access to information by the public would also enhance accountability of public institutions.
“Given the high correlation between the incidence of corruption and the extent of bureaucratic red tape, under the auspices of the Ease of Doing Business, needless regulations will continue to be eliminated, while safeguarding the essential regulatory functions of the State,” he said.
In this regard, Minister Chinamasa said it was envisaged that the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act, an Act that seeks to tighten, reorganise and improve procurement system, would become effective 1 January 2018.
“This will dispense with the former dispensation, which had inherent weaknesses that resulted in Government awarding tenders to undeserving companies and individuals, to the detriment of cost considerations and service delivery.
“In close association with this, it is intended that the Public Entities Corporate Governance Bill, which is currently before Parliament, be passed in the first quarter of 2018,” he said.
The Bill seeks to professionalise the manner in which public entities carry out their day to day functions, as well as rationalise the remuneration payable to members and employees of such entities.
This, he said, would do away with unsustainable remunerations that board members normally award themselves.
He said the 2018 Budget proposed to regularise life style audits of all public office holders for the purposes of ensuring that they were commensurate with their level of income.
“Where it is palpably manifest that their asset base is inconsistent with their level of income, it must be incumbent upon that officer to give an account of their sources of income justifying their wealth.
“Failure to provide an adequate explanation by the office holder would result in an investigation into their financial affairs, should this be necessary,” he said.
Minister Chinamasa regretted that little action was being taken to address identified institutional shortcomings, notwithstanding the red flags dutifully raised by the Auditor General.
“Consequently, the Public Finance Technical Response Unit was established under the Accountant General for the purposes of studying, following up and further looking into matters that are raised through the Auditor General’s reports for the purposes of recovering misappropriated wealth and institution of criminal proceedings, where necessary,” he said.