News that the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) has introduced anti-corruption measures which we hope will result in junior police members, from the rank of constable to assistant inspector, undergoing a lifestyle audit is sweet music to the ears.
The audit will compel them to declare their assets and earnings to their superiors quarterly, in a move meant to flush out those with ill-gotten wealth.
The initiative was taken after realising that some members of the force, who earn around $200 a month, were living far beyond their means with others acquiring properties and livestock worth thousands of dollars in a short space of time, raising suspicion they could have other means of survival.
According to the chief police spokesperson, Senior Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena, disciplinary action will be taken against those who fail to justify their wealth, including being suspended or fired from the force.
This is a welcome development.
We find the move by the ZRP command commendable given the increasing belief that some of the country’s police, especially those manning traffic, have corrupt tendencies.
It is also significant given that the declaration of assets by public officials and security agents is increasingly being seen as one of the ways of fighting graft and ensuring those who hold public office are held accountable.
While applauding the move, we, however, challenge the police command to lead from the front by also declaring their assets. This will send a clear message that the police force is transparent and is committed to ensure there is no corruption within its rank and file.
The exercise should not be confined to junior ranks only. It should cut across the board and leave no stone unturned.
By limiting the anti-corruption measures to junior police, it may be misconstrued to mean that corruption in high offices is condoned, but frowned on among juniors. After all, research has shown that grand corruption is among those holding influential positions.
We believe the measures would be more successful if they started with senior officers before cascading, rank by rank, to the juniors.
That way, junior police and indeed the public will be confident the exercise is genuine and not meant to be some kind of witch-hunt.
Taking action on senior officers who fail to account for their wealth will send a very loud message to those in the lower ranks that corruption is not tolerated in the ZRP and — in the long run — boost public confidence in the organisation.
The ZRP should therefore seriously consider beginning the lifestyles audit with the senior officers.
Other government arms such as the defence forces and the prison services should take a cue from the police initiative and compel their rank and file to declare their wealth.