PARLIAMENT should enact a code of conduct for the Vice-President, Cabinet ministers and their deputies to ensure accountability and curb rampant corruption and abuse of office by public office bearers, retired High Court judge Justice Moses Chinhengo has said.
Chinhengo told Parliamentarians at an oversight bodies’ breakfast meeting organised by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights in Harare yesterday that the recent “Salarygate” exposés provided a compelling need for a code of conduct for ministers who could be complicit in the scandals.
“Section 106(3) requires Parliament to enact laws prescribing a code of conduct for the Vice-President, ministers and deputy ministers,” Justice Chinhengo said.
“The recent reports of widespread scandals in parastatals where permanent secretaries and chief executive officers of State-controlled enterprises awarded themselves high and unsustainable salaries right in front of ministers or possibly with their complicity indicates the need to enact a code of conduct for the ministers, deputy ministers and the VP.”
Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa last month had to put a $6 000 monthly salary cap on bosses of public institutions after it emerged some of them were earning astronomical and unsustainable salaries at the expense of service delivery.
Premier Service Medical Aid Society (PSMAS) was struggling to repay a $40 million debt to service providers while its top management was gobbling at least
$1 million monthly in basic salaries.
Former PSMAS boss Cuthbert Dube was reportedly earning over $500 000 per month.
Suspended Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation chief executive officer Happison Muchechetere was also pocketing about $40 000 a month at a time workers had gone for over seven months without salaries.
Harare town clerk Tendai Mahachi was also said to be earning a mega-salary at a time council is failing to provide clean water, health services and repair a dilapidated road network.
Justice Chinhengo said the involvement of permanent secretaries and chief executive officers of public institutions, some reporting directly to ministers, could suggest that the ministers were complicit in the murky dealings.
President Robert Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba, who doubles as permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, Higher Education secretary Washington Mbizvo, Primary and Secondary Education permanent secretary Constance Chigwamba, to mention a few, have been fingered in some of the mega-salary deals, alongside parastatal bosses.
Justice Chinhengo said Parliament should enact laws to ensure that the public was provided with services in a transparent and accountable manner and that appointment of personnel in the public service was done on merit.
He said lack of impartiality among civil servants, particularly security personnel, also compromised accountability.
Justice Chinhengo said Zimbabwe had a plethora of good laws that could be used to hold leaders to account.
“Section 239 of the Constitution provides for Zec (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) to run national elections effectively and transparently. In the last general elections, it will be a matter of debate,” he said. “There was an unprecedented failure by Zec to provide the voters’ roll on time or it was not available at all. And is this how you can run an election in a transparent manner?”
MPs and Clerk of Parliament Austin Zvoma said the oversight role of Parliamentarians was limited by lack of funding from Treasury. MPs said they needed constituency offices and research assistants, apart from money to travel around seeing things for themselves than relying on inviting people to the august House.
They said the $35 million allocated to Parliament in the 2014 National Budget was a far cry from what was needed for them to carry out their oversight roles.
But Justice Chinhengo said if politicians were aware of the limitations in funds, it could have been prudent for them to vote for a leaner Parliament that could be sustained by the budget. He said Zimbabwe actually has more MPs than other countries with much bigger populations.