Combating corruption: The beginning of a fresh struggle?

Zimbabwe has the dubious distinction of being the third most corrupt country in Africa.

Painona with Tapiwa Nyandoro

The recent exposé of corruption may be the beginning of economic salvation if sustained.

Below are a few reforms for taking the fight to the greedy and corrupt.

Shining the light
“What Transparency International (TI) believes in is what I believe in; what you (TI) want to root out is what I also want to root out”, so said Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, recently in Nairobi, inviting TI to take a direct partnership in combating Kenyan endemic corruption.

According to local Press reports, quoting the official Chinese news agency Xinhua – that’s how far it has gone – “the remarks came barely two months after the President launched a new website where the public can report incidents of corruption directly to him”.

Both initiatives by President Kenyatta are needed yesterday – in Zimbabwe even more. Without curbing corruption, economic growth will not be revived.

Scientific executives selection
Complementing such initiatives would be a suggestion raised by Zimbabwe’s Presidential spokesman recently.

George Charamba hit the nail on the head when he said that experience and business acumen, as opposed to political credentials only, should be the criteria for the selection of senior civil servants, in particular Permanent Secretaries.

He also averred that a top class skills mix that includes legal (and procurement as well as technical) expertise is essential for each government ministry. Take an unbiased look at Zimbabwe’s problems; most can be traced back to poor selection (and remuneration) of public sector executives. The South East Asian Tigers, China, Japan and Germany, despite having little or no natural resources, rose from poverty and ashes thanks to a cerebral, professional, hard working, well rewarded public sector management of high integrity equipped with the necessary tools such as business acumen and an indomitable spirit.

It is time to deploy the latest human resource management tools, such as psychometric testing, in the recruitment of senior public sector managers. Needless to say the same scientific approach should be extended to quasi government, State-owned enterprises, public companies, statutory bodies and the uniformed forces’ top brass.

Inclusive and strategic board members selection
In State-owned enterprises, workers, who have been on the receiving end of poor governance, should select a quarter of the independent/non-executive board members, the responsible ministry/commission half the board, and the opposition in Parliament the final quarter.

All board members must have the requisite qualifications, skills or experience to provide it with wise counsel. Three executive directors should sit on the board, being the CEO, the finance and the operations executives.

Discipline enforcement and  zero tolerance to corruption
In China, “thousands of people have been disciplined for extravagancies such as hosting lavish banquets, weddings and funerals, spending public funds inappropriately on travel, the improper use of government vehicles, and construction of luxurious government buildings”, reported The Economist (January 25, 2014), quoting the Communist Party of China’s Central Commission for discipline and inspection, the Party’s organ charged with fighting corruption.

After the new President of China Xi Jinping declared war on graft, the impact of the declaration, the journal reported, has been noticeable.

Fifty six five-star hotels in 2013 asked to be downgraded in order to survive, as public sector business dried up in Xi’s first year in power. He had prohibited local governments, now largely drowning in debt, from using the services of luxurious hotels. It is a lesson that could do a lot of good if adopted by Zimbabwe.

“The campaign, begun more than a year ago, has been surprisingly broad and sustained, and is intensifying as it enters the second year”, the British weekly noted in appreciation.

182 000 Chinese officials were punished for disciplinary violations in 2013, an increase of over 20 000 over 2012 and a staggering 40 000 over 2011. Proportionally therefore more than one thousand eight hundred (1 800) Zimbabweans should have been charged with such misconduct in the public sector in 2013.

Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission and the Auditor and Comptroller-General ended the year without a conviction, justifying the nation’s Bronze medal on the ranks of the corrupt. Taking graft on is a noble venture the Press has undertaken. More could be accomplished if the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) is in the driver’s seat.

Tightening the law
After looting their banks or organisations many directors, executives and some multi-national companies have walked away Scot free due to weak laws.

The relevant pieces of legislation need to be amended or enacted urgently. TI could provide the legal resources to expedite the task.

The new South African Companies Act, for example, requires directors of companies to be more accountable for  their actions and to be liable to prosecution if they fail their companies in the discharge of their fiduciary responsibilities, or if they corruptly enrich themselves due to their privileged positions.

The code of corporate governance, known as King III ought to be incorporated into the Companies Act to make it legally binding.

Good public financial management
Most of the corruption is due to bad financial management. Budgets need to be realistic, correctly approved and followed.

Books of accounts must be timeously prepared and audited on time.

Insolvent institutions should not trade a day longer! As he enjoys his 90th year on this earth, President Robert Mugabe has his work cut out. (Belated) Happy Birthday Mr President! or

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