NO British paper summed up that awkward moment when Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari attended an anti-corruption summit in London only for host Prime Minister David Cameron to label the African country as “fantastically corrupt” better than The Daily Mail.
“Awkward! Nigerian leader whose country was branded ‘fantastically corrupt’ by Cameron arrives for London summit — and demands we give their money back,” read the screaming headline.
Not to be outdone, in Zimbabwe this week (yesterday morning to be precise) we had our own awkward moment when Energy and Power Development Minister Dr Samuel Undenge was exposed as having imposed a public relations consultancy firm on Zesa Holdings and its subsidiaries. Without going to tender, the power utility which has one of the largest PR departments among State enterprises, has been paying tens of thousands of dollars monthly to Fruitful Communications.
According to a story which we published yesterday, the consultancy firm which has left Zesa’s internal PR departments redundant, is owned by Highfield West legislator Psychology Maziwisa and former ZBC news anchor Oscar Pambuka.
While David Cameron does not have the moral authority to label Nigeria as “fantastically corrupt” until he compensates the former colony by handing back all the assets British settlers looted from Africa’s most populous country as Mr Buhari rightfully pointed out, he was right about one thing — corruption can be fantastic at times.
If you don’t think so dear reader, then listen carefully to what Minister Undenge said in his letter to Zesa Holdings: “They (Fruitful Communications) have done publicity work for the Ministry of Energy and Power Development by putting me, as the principal voice at the forefront of explaining our vision as well as the different interventions that are currently being undertaken by the ministry.
“I have found them to be incredibly useful in this regard and hereby direct that you work as closely as possible with them at intervals of six months per engagement until 2018.”
Isn’t it awkward that Minister Undenge’s predecessor, Dzikamai Mavhaire, was also in the news for the wrong reasons when he instructed Green Fuel to construct a 49-kilometre power line and a substation in Chisumbanje in October 2013, without the knowledge of the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company board.
The question that we ask today is: what is going on at Zesa? Yes, not the Ministry of Energy and Power Development, but Zesa. Why is the Zesa management prone to being bullied?
While it is wrong for Cabinet ministers to micro-manage parastatals and State enterprises, it is a greater disservice to have the same being run by willing puppets. If the Zesa management can’t man up and protect their own integrity, then how can they be trusted with providing electricity to all Zimbabwean households?
We are sick and tired of being told the same old story. The minister this, the minister that. Just do the right thing.
Just this week, we carried a promising story on how Government has rolled out an ambitious turnaround programme of State-owned enterprises, starting with 11 key parastatals to reduce the fiscal burden and ensure they operate viably.
The programme involves the auditing of the institutions which is currently underway and formulation of turnaround strategies.
The ultimate goal, Vice President Mnangagwa said in the article, is to improve oversight and governance of parastatals and strengthen accountability. To this end, he said it was important to have best boards of directors appointed on merit in all State institutions.
The goals for State enterprises are not the same as that of for-profit corporations, but they face many similar challenges. They need to be business-like. The boards and management of State enterprises must be at the forefront of fighting corruption. They must refuse to do what is wrong.
They and they alone are the custodians of their integrity. They must stand for what is right and the truth will set them free.