Tighten screws on Zim US$7m COVID-19 grant: US

United States senator Jim Risch has called on the World Bank (WB) to impose stricter accountability measures for a US$7 million grant extended to Zimbabwe to support the COVID-19 response.

BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE

In a letter to WB president David Malpass, Risch said Zimbabwe has a history of diverting international aid to enrich the ruling elite.

This, Risch said, was evidenced by the diversion of Cyclone Idai aid, leaving several communities in Chimanimani suffering.

“I urge the World Bank to impose very strict benchmarks and transparency and accountability measures on the US$7 million grant and any future programmes for Zimbabwe to ensure that procurement processes are fair and transparent,” Risch said, adding that they wanted to ensure that contracts are awarded to Zimbabwean companies not on sanctions list.

Risch said he was relieved to hear that the US$7 million grant would be managed and implemented by the United Nations Office for Project Services and the Dutch Catholic Organisation for Relief and Development Aid, but his worries remained that the funding would also fall into the wrong hands directly or indirectly.

Risch singled out Zimbabwe and Sudan, saying there was need for significant reform of most State institutions, pervasive corruption and impunity.

“These two countries face vastly different circumstances and challenges, and a one-size-fits-all approach to assistance to countries in arrears must take these matters into account as solutions are crafted,” he said.

“I am concerned that some of the grant funds were redirected from Cyclone Idai response and areas affected by Cyclone Idai, including Mutare and Chimanimani, still suffer total devastation and significant need. We must continue to support those communities as they rebuild and it is my hope that the redirected funds will continue to support communities affected by the cyclone.”

The senator, who is also the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said any package mobilised to Zimbabwe and Sudan must incorporate independent Zimbabwean civil society and community voices.

Risch advice to the WB came as the country is grappling with COVID-19 donation scandal in involving test kits from Namibia. Millions of United States dollars have been looted by the elite and their cronies in COVID-19 equipment’s tenders.

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