Letters: Local authorities have a lot to improve

A buldozer loadIing garbage in Harare, Mbare

LOCAL authorities must improve systems and structures, enhance the auditing process, and educate staff on good ethical standards and effective governance to effectively fight corruption and improve service delivery.

They must establish strong governance and accountability frameworks and engage communities and policymakers to eradicate corruption.

Service providers should make use of mobile technology to promote citizenry participation in sharing ideas and making decisions on development issues.

Local authorities must increase integrity and accountability in procurement, independent monitoring and oversight mechanisms.

They must counter and mitigate corruption risks in public procurement as several risks have emerged in recent years.

These include reforms in legal frameworks, more efficient and or digitalised procurement processes, increased oversight, access to information and the process of clean contracting regulations.

Recent developments in open contacting and the use of new technologies are promising developments to counter corruption at the local level.

Civil society participation is paramount to ensure anti-corruption strategies lead to greater accountability.

According to the National Anti- Corruption Forum, “the most critical element in the fight against corruption is the culture and ethos in government and civil society that should permeate everyday activities.

The ethos and culture within government and civil society can be built through communication and training, most importantly, through a process of continual dialogue on ethical issues. In the absence of a positive ethos, even the best rules, systems, procedures and institutions will not be able to curb corruption and unethical behaviour.”

Citizen oversight is crucial to the success of all these efforts. Some strategies can be initiated or implemented by civil society shareholders; others require action from government with civil society playing an oversight role.

Successful initiatives to improve integrity in public procurement in partnership with civil society include integrity pacts, open contracting initiatives, use of new technology and citizen monitoring mechanisms.

Access to information, capacity-building for public sector and civil society, and a user-friendly processing of data are needed to ensure civil society can successfully contribute to anti-corruption efforts.

Local authorities should publish information on draft budget plans, adopted budgets, and actual expenditure.

In addition, they should prepare special brochures with main budget data in an easily readable form.

There is also need for greater access for citizens and news media to governments information including budgets, detailed information on council’s revenue, disclosures of top public officials and councillors of all financial interests.

Local authorities must apply international anti-corruption standards to the local level.

In accordance with their competencies, local authorities should play their role in developing and implementing anti-corruption policies, adopting, maintaining, and strengthening efficient transparent and merit-based systems of recruitment, hiring, retention, promotion and retirement of staff.

They should promote transparency and accountability in the management of public resources.

The Public Finance Management Act compels public bodies, including local authorities, to submit their accounts for audit annually.

There is need for enforcement and consequences for non- or poor performance.

Non-action on reports is also to do with inadequate enforcement.

Law enforcement arms of government must go through reports by the Auditor-General and take appropriate redress measures on issues that lend themselves to criminal prosecution to promote transparency and accountability.

Furthermore, there is need for legal protection of whistleblowers, tougher legislation enabling more prosecutions and harsher sentences for corruption, more resources to investigate and prosecute corruption cases, the creation of anti-corruption courts, a single dedicated independent agency to fight corruption, fighting organised crime and prosecution of high-profile individuals. - Zimbabwe Coalition for Debt and Development

The more things change, the more they remain the same

WHEN he came to power, President Emmerson Mnangagwa promised all and sundry that his new dispensation would tolerate divergent views, but a few weeks after he assumed power, Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP) officials were arrested, which was an  indicator that there was little if any change at all.

The MRP officials were allegedly bashed by law enforcement agents after they were detained for protesting against Mnangagwa during a church service in Bulawayo.

Today, Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) vice-chairperson and Zengeza West MP Job Sikhala has spent six months incarcerated at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison.

Even if the courts find him guilty or not, already he would have served a sentence.

Sikhala is in remand prison accused of inciting violence in Nyatsime at the funeral wake of slain CCC activist Moreblessing Ali.

I thought Mnangagwa’s politics was not of vindictiveness, but what is happening today shows that Zimbabwe has actually regressed.

Demonstrating and picketing are guaranteed rights in the Constitution and detaining activists for that is tantamount to the authorities shooting themselves in the foot, as it shows that the Mnangagwa administration is averse to people expressing themselves, just as the old regime was.

Mnangagwa should know that such demonstrations shall be a hallmark of his time as a leader and detaining the activists is not always the answer.

I did not know that bail can be denied for allegedly being a repeat offender, even if you have never been convicted.

Mnangagwa’s government has failed to accept that the opposition plays a role in the governance of a country.

He is fighting to have a one-party State, at the same closing private media and democratic space.

At the same, the Private Voluntary Organisations Bill has been passed, which has caused fears over the closure of non-governmental and civic society organisations that are deemed anti-government by the powers-that-be.

Instead of crushing demonstrations, NGOs and private media, Mnangagwa should ensure that he opens up the democratic space, which increases his chances of being voted back into power without any contestations.

With elections later this year, Mnangagwa’s victory will depend on how he handles the current scenario whereby he is trying to snuff the life out of NGOs and democratic space on the one hand, while on the other, fighting sabotage in his own Zanu PF party. - Pikirayi

A review of Zim’s response to COVID-19 pandemic

THE extraordinary explosion of State power towards the COVID-19 response has attracted scholarly and policy attention in relation to pandemic politics.

This notion relies on Foucault’s theoretical differentiation of the political management of epidemics to understand how governmental framing of COVID-19 reflects biopolitical powers and how power was mobilised to control the pandemic in Zimbabwe.

We conducted a scoping review of published literature, Cabinet resolutions and statutory instruments related to COVID-19 in Zimbabwe.

The COVID-19 response in Zimbabwe was shaped by four discursive frames: ignorance, denialism, securitisation and State sovereignty.

A slew of COVID-19-related regulations and decrees were promulgated, including use of special presidential powers, typical of the leprosy model (sovereign power), a protracted and heavily policed lockdown was effected, typical of the plague model (disciplinary power) and throughout the pandemic, there was reference to statistical data to justify the response measures while vaccination emerged as a flagship strategy to control the pandemic, typical of the smallpox model (biopower).

The securitisation frame had a large influence on the overall pandemic response, leading to an overly punitive application of disciplinary power and cases of infidelity to scientific evidence.

On the other hand, a securitised, geopolitically oriented sovereignty model positively shaped a strong, generally well execucted, domestically financed vaccination (biopower) programme.

The COVID-19 response in Zimbabwe was not just an exercise in biomedical science.

Rather it invoked wider governmentality aspects shaped by the country’s own history, (geo)-politics and various mechanisms of power.

While epidemic securitisation by norm-setting institutions such as the World Health Organisation is critical to stimulate international political action, the transnational diffusion of such charged frames needs to be viewed in relation to how policymakers filter the policy and political consequences of securitisation through the lenses of their ideological stances and its potential to hamper rather than bolster political action. - BMJ



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