The Sunday Mail
Comm John Makamure
AS the anti-corruption drive intensifies, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) is this year targeting to submit 80 dockets for prosecution to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
Forty-two dockets have so far been submitted, with the majority of them high-profile cases.
These cases are at various stages of processing within the criminal justice system.
The number of dockets targeted for submission to the prosecuting authority is a huge jump from the previous year that saw 50 dockets being completed and availed for prosecution.
ZACC continues to witness an increase in the number of corruption reports filed by citizens.
The number of reports received since the beginning of the year stands at 336.
Some of the reports are referred to the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) in line with one of the commission’s Constitutional functions as provided for in Section 255.
All reports that qualify under the definition of corruption are thoroughly investigated and the culprits brought to book. The commission is alive to the fact that corruption cases have become increasingly complex to unravel.
This is why the ZACC Strategic Plan (2020 – 2024) deliberately allocated more of its resources (60 percent) to investigations for prosecution and asset recovery.
The remaining 40 percent is for corruption prevention programmes such as public education, research and systems and compliance reviews.
The commission has unfairly been blamed for the slow pace of prosecution of corruption cases. However, it is not the mandate of ZACC to prosecute criminal cases, the NPA has that responsibility.
This does not mean that ZACC is not an interested party when it comes to prosecution of corruption matters. We have requested to be granted prosecutorial powers in order to complement the good efforts of the NPA, which is inundated with many other criminal matters.
This is not an unreasonable request as it is in line with Section 263 of the Constitution which says “an Act of Parliament may confer powers of prosecution on persons other than the NPA, but these powers must not limit or conflict with the Authority’s powers . . .”
As long as the Act makes it clear that the commission will specifically prosecute corruption cases that it would have investigated, then there is no conflict between the work of ZACC and that of the NPA.
Nigeria is a good example of an anti-corruption commission that has improved on its effectiveness after being granted prosecutorial powers.
The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) are empowered to investigate and prosecute corruption in Nigeria. Although the two are supposed to have financial independence, in practice they receive government funds, including from the President’s budget. Foreign aid has provided technical support to the ICPC and the EFCC, for example, from the United States, Britain and the European Union.
Both agencies are legally independent. They have successfully prosecuted several corrupt officials and recovered billions of dollars over the past few years.
The other example is Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission, which has the mandate to investigate and prosecute corruption matters. Prosecution is carried out before specialised anti-corruption courts. The commission is authorised to take over investigation or prosecution of corruption cases handled by the National Police and Attorney-General’s Office; both institutions are obliged to hand over suspects and related evidence, dossiers and other documentation within 14 working days upon request.
The Zimbabwe Government has done very well to establish anti-corruption courts which can be utilised by ZACC for prosecution, working closely with the Special Anti-Corruption Unit in the Office of the President and Cabinet.
Zimbabwe has been lauded for its strong institutional framework to combat and prevent corruption. Despite this progressive institutional and legal framework, successful prosecution of corruption cases is highly dependent on the quality of investigations and the dockets that arise from these investigations. This explains why the commission continues to make strenuous efforts to strengthen its investigations unit through hiring qualified staff and conducting training and re-training.
Agreements have been struck with renowned international organisations to support these capacity building initiatives.
The review of implementation of the UN Convention Against Corruption, covering Chapter III “Criminalisation and Law Enforcement” and IV “International Co-operation” has shown the need to strengthen the capacity of national anti-corruption agencies and other relevant law enforcement authorities to conduct corruption and financial investigations at the national and international levels.
This need is becoming more pressing in light of the technological innovation allowing fast and hardly traceable transfers of funds across the region and globally.
Many have asked how ZACC conducts its investigations. A variety of sources of information can trigger a corruption investigation. Reports by the Auditor-General, information from the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and intelligence services are useful information sources.
Articles in mass media have helped to trigger investigations too. Reports from citizens/whistleblowers are useful but less if they are anonymous.
Valuable information can be provided by banks, especially in the form of information sent to the central bank. The Internet is also becoming a valuable source of information.
Undercover operations remain a powerful tool to detect corruption.
Our investigators make use of tried and tested approaches to investigations. One such approach is the Case Theory approach to complex investigations. It is similar to the scientific method of experimentation, and involves the following steps:
Analysis of the available data to create and hypothesis;
Testing the hypothesis against the available facts; and
Refining and amending the hypothesis until reasonably certain conclusions can be drawn.
Expressed somewhat differently, the approach begins with an informed assumption or guess, based on the available evidence of what the investigator thinks may have happened, which is then used to generate an investigative plan to test — prove or disprove — the assumption.
One of the major challenges faced in our investigations centre is on difficulties convincing whistle-blowers to report corruption. People are less eager to report corruption than, for example, crimes that involve physical threats.
The enactment of the whistleblower protection law that is gathering momentum will go a long way in addressing this problem. ZACC is also deploying an online whistleblower App that will facilitate easier reporting and tracking of cases by citizens.
According to “The Whistle blower’s Handbook”, written by social scientist Brian Martin, there is a real danger in becoming a whistleblower.
He describes many methods used against those who speak out. This often includes harassment, rumour spreading, threats of firing, blocking of promotions, forced job transfers, formal reprimands, legal action or even physical assault.
With the forthcoming whistleblower law and the arrest and prosecution of those that violate the law, the ZACC is determined to make such victimisation of whistleblowers a thing of the past.
Full protection of whistleblowers is paramount to the success of the anti-corruption drive.
Commissioner John Makamure is ZACC spokesperson. He chairs the committee on prevention and corporate governance. Feedback: [email protected]