Age of impunity is over

Golden Sibanda
The Public Entities Corporate Governance Bill is open for stakeholders’ input, a senior Parliament of Zimbabwe official has said.

The proposed law seeks to bring to an end the culture of extravagance oiled by abuse of public resources, with errant officials reimbursing any excessive payments made to them.

Further, the Bill says Presidential approval will be required for board fees paid to directors of public entities.

The law says CEOs of parastatals and State enterprises will serve a maximum of two five-year terms, and those who have  for chief executives of parastatals and other public entities; renewable only once while those who have already served for more than 10 years ‘may’ not be appointed.

Last week, assistant clerk of Parliament Mr Johane Gandiwa told The Sunday Mail Business, “In line with our constitutional obligations, we have opened a one-month window for members of the public and interested stakeholders to submit comments on the Bill to Parliament.”

The Public Entities Governance Bill will also provide for enforcement of provisions of the Zimbabwe Corporate Governance Code of Conduct (ZimCode).

ZimCode caps public sector salaries at US$6 000 a month.

According to Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa, public entities used to contribute about 40 percent to GDP but have off late been surviving on handouts from Government – even as executives live large. Zimbabwe has 78 parastatals and State enterprises.

The proposed law says any money or monetary benefits enjoyed beyond service contracts will have to be reimbursed.  “Unless prompt voluntary reimbursement is made of any remuneration, allowance or benefit resulting from a contravention of Subsection (3), the recipient concerned shall be subjected to a surcharge levied in accordance with the Third Schedule for the reimbursable amount,” the Bills says.

Contravention of approved thresholds may result in a four-year jail term. Non-executive board members of public entities will also be liable to a surcharge in accordance with the Third Schedule to reimburse the amount, unless prompt voluntary reimbursement is made.

Should a minister feel that remuneration should exceed set limits, changes will be made with Presidential consent, the Bill says. Chief executives of public entities will be appointed for a maximum of two five-year terms, and they will be appointed after a selection process involving public advertisements, interviews and approval by a line minister with consent of the President.

The law will also restrict terminal benefits paid to senior staff of public entities upon resignation or retirement, and any such payments will require ministerial approval.

Further, gratuities will have to be approved by the line minister, his/her Finance counterpart, and by shareholders or stakeholders at an AGM.

All chief executives and senior staff of public entities will sign performance contracts with the board.

The contract will also prescribe penalties – including dismissal, suspension and forfeiture of remuneration or other benefits – should the official fail to perform duties efficiently.

Economist Dr Gift Mugano said there was need for the State to get tough on graft. “What is important is to note that Zimbabwe has solid institutions to deal with these issues but unfortunately those in charge of these institutions are just folding their hands. The political will is there because the President in his 10-Point Plan talks about dealing with corruption,” he said.

Over and above salaries, many public sector CEOs get allowances for homes, vehicles, domestic and international holidays, spouses, education for their children and dependents, social and professional clubs, clothing and entertainment.

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