The government pretended to be surprised this week, when revelations were made that parastatals and State-owned enterprises incurred a loss of $270 million.
It has been said ad nauseam that these entities are a financial black hole, but the government is ever eager to look aside, as ministers treat parastatals as their personal piggy banks.
Presentations have been made on the desperate need to rationalise salaries and staff numbers in parastatals, but these have all been shot down or there is a lack of political will to implement them as this is politically inexpedient.
The losses in parastatals are of government’s doing, as a crass system of nepotism, cronyism and corruption has seen the maintenance of management that has either failed or is woefully inept.
If the government was serious about cleaning up the mess in parastatals, it would have done so ages ago, but it is not and the rot continues.
Most parastatals routinely fail to present audited performance results to the Auditor-General and yet we have not yet heard of anyone being punished for such blatant laggardness.
Reports of corruption in parastatals abound, but the suspected perpetrators are usually transferred to other offices, where they continue with their avarice instead of being fired and prosecuted.
The government has failed to instil good corporate governance in parastatals and the obvious end result is such huge losses.
Losses of $270 million are inexcusable, as this is almost 10% of the country’s budget and one can only imagine how far this amount could go if it was deployed in the right areas.
Instead of being fired, parastatal bosses will in the next few days go overboard, as they will contribute to the Zanu PF special congress, pledging money they do not have and further sinking into debt and losses.
Then they will go into a fawning overdrive, praising President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF for hosting a successful congress, with advertisements splashed across public media with reckless abandon and with little regard for their bottom line.
And when the parastatals can no longer sustain themselves, the government is always on hand to take over their debts.
This is a culture that has been fostered in Zimbabwe, where patronage is more valued than corporate good governance.
So when the government moans about a $270 million loss and Finance minister Ignatius Chombo cries that parastatals should no longer expect bailouts, Zimbabweans know that this is nothing more than crocodile tears – with the authorities being at their insincere worst.
Political will is needed to clear up the rot in parastatals, sadly this is something this government chronically lacks.