The Sunday Mail
Justice Loyce Matanda-Moyo
SENTIMENTS have been expressed in certain circles that the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) has failed to deliver on its constitutional mandate of combating and preventing corruption.
Zacc was established in July 2019 and in this article, I wish to highlight some of the accomplishments that the commission has recorded since its inception less than 12 months ago.
Section 255 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe No. 20 of 2013 outlines eight functions to be undertaken by ZACC.
These can be summarised as receiving reports, investigating corruption and economic crime cases, and referring matters investigated to the National Prosecution Authority (NPA) for prosecution.
In addition, it is the commission’s mandate to promote honesty, financial discipline and transparency in public and private sectors. ZACC also makes recommendations to Government and other persons on measures that enhance integrity, accountability and prevent improper conduct in public and private sectors.
Therefore, the role of ZACC is not only to investigate cases, arrest the suspects and prepare dockets for submission to the NPA. We have other equally important functions of preventing corruption through educating members of the public on the ills of corruption, engaging stakeholders to assist in the formulation of practices, systems and procurement procedures with a view to eliminating corruption.
We also carry out evidence-based research on sectors prone to corruption to assist Government in implementing policies that address this menace.
Finally, the commission ensures it recommends to Government the most appropriate legal, policy and institutional framework in line with best practices in curbing corruption.
ZACC has been appreciating the status of corruption in Zimbabwe, which I addressed in my first Press briefing in 2019. The commission immediately came up with strategies to address issues noted.
The first step was to develop a strategic plan to guide ZACCs operations during its five-year term of office from 2020-2024. This plan was developed from input received from various key stakeholders such as the NPA, Judicial Service Commission, Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra), Department of Immigration, civil society organisations and non-governmental organisations.
These organisations included those that are involved in the fight against corruption, for instance, Transparency International Zimbabwe Chapter and Zimbabwe Council of Churches, among other public and private institutions.
This was the first time that the commission had come up with a strategic plan through such a consultative process. Due to the involvement of an array of key stakeholders, we are confident that ZACC’s vision of “a citizenry and institutions that uphold integrity and good governance for a corruption free Zimbabwe by 2030” and mission “to combat all forms of corruption in Zimbabwe”, are attainable.
The launch of this strategy was affected by the current global Covid-19 crisis. However, it will be launched soon. This strategic plan has two key result areas, mainly investigation of corruption and asset recovery, which has been allocated 60 percent of the resources, and prevention of corruption, which received the remaining 40 percent.
Allocation of more resources to investigations is mainly premised on the several reports received of allegations of corruption in both public and private sectors.
There is a need to bring to book these culprits in order to increase public confidence in our institutions, and recover ill-gotten money so as to show the public and future generations that crime does not pay.
ZACC is currently investigating 786 cases. We would like to thank our citizens who are increasingly reporting suspected cases of corruption to the commission. We continue to encourage them to do so.
ZACC through its development partners has developed a whistleblowing application that will facilitate easier reporting and tracking of corruption cases online. In addition, this application will maintain the anonymity of persons if they wish to remain anonymous.
The commission has drafted a Whistleblower Lay Bill and proposed amendments to the Anti-Corruption Commission Act, which have been submitted to the Office of the President and Cabinet for onward transmission to the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
The commission has engaged Parliamentarians and the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs on the urgency for the amendments to the Anti-Corruption Commission Act and Whistleblower Protection legislation as witnesses are afraid to come forward and testify in high-profile matters.
Despite these challenges, the commission has managed to finalise 61 dockets, which have been submitted to the NPA for trial. These cases are at various stages of trial in our courts. Thirty-percent of the dockets submitted to the NPA are high-profile in nature, meaning they involve huge amounts of money and prominent persons.
Also, the level of prejudice caused by these cases to the nation as a whole clearly demonstrates that the commission is not only targeting small cases. Cases of note are the highly publicised high-profile case of the former Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, who was arrested for allegedly abusing funds from the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) worth of millions of dollars. The matter awaits commencement of trial.
The matter involving the former director in the Office of the President and Cabinet for alleged abuse of duty is now at the defence stage.
There are several cases involving alleged theft of funds amounting to millions of dollars from the Ministry of Defence and War Veterans Affairs, which led to the arrest of eight employees from the accounts and procurement departments including a director. Two other accomplices are on the run.
The commission seized top of the range vehicles, properties and froze bank accounts.
Cases involving employees of the Department of Scholarships in the Office of the President and Cabinet, employees of NatPharm, former chief executive officer of Zinara, former City of Harare engineers and directors, and former general manager of Petrozim, among others, are all at various stages of trial.
From the 61 dockets submitted, six cases have gone through trial resulting in convictions. The commission has put measures to ensure that all dockets referred are thoroughly vetted by the legal department.
In addition, ZACC through its development partners is facilitating anti-corruption training of ZACC investigators, prosecutors and judicial officers to ensure more convictions of cases brought before the courts.
We are, therefore, continuing to work closely with our partners in the criminal justice system to ensure this is achieved.
Related to investigations is asset recovery. As the new team we noted the lack of recoveries by the previous commissions, especially international recoveries. It is not enough to incarcerate criminals who have committed acts of corruption, financial and economic crime.
The worldwide trend is now to undertake parallel financial investigations in cases of financial and economic crimes to recover assets or proceeds of crime. It is against this background that the commission reconstituted its Asset Recovery Unit to conduct asset tracing investigations, apply for warrants of seizures and freezing orders, and then draft asset forfeiture applications for referral to the NPA.
The Asset Recovery Unit is currently seized with eight cases under asset tracing investigations that run into millions of US dollars. Three asset forfeiture applications have been completed and referred to the NPA, and filed in the High Court.
ZACC is taking parallel financial investigations beyond our borders. I am happy to inform the nation that a significant milestone in that respect are the recent engagements with reputable international organisations that specialise in asset tracking and recovery. This should see Zimbabwe in the coming years recovering billions of dollars illicitly hidden outside the country.
The target for ZACC is to recover $300 million worth of assets locally this year. We expect to recover much more in the coming years as our asset recovery unit is fully capacitated to recover international assets.
As already mentioned above, one of the constitutional functions of the commission is to make recommendations to Government and other persons on measures to enhance integrity and accountability, and prevent improper conduct in the public and private sectors.
To fulfil this function, the commission has revamped its systems and compliance department to undertake the necessary reviews, and recommend measures to strengthen corporate governance systems and plug loopholes for corruption.
The department has already started working with all the 180 local authorities to establish integrity committees and ensure their systems and procedures are watertight. The systems and compliance reviews that the commission undertook at NatPharm and the Department of National Scholarships unearthed some corrupt practices that have resulted in the arrest and appearance in court of the implicated officials.
The commission has led the process of crafting of a National Anti-Corruption Strategy, again through a highly consultative process.
The National Anti-Corruption Strategy is not only aimed at fulfilling Zimbabwe’s obligations under the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, SADC Protocol Against Corruption and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption, but also to build a national consensus and ownership of the fight against corruption.
Thanks to funding from Government and our development partners, workshops were conducted in all the country’s 10 provinces to receive input from key stakeholders.
Quite valuable input was received in a candid manner and greatly enriched the document that will soon be officially launched by His Excellency President Mnangagwa.
With a vision “to make Zimbabwe a corruption free country where honesty and integrity become the main culture”, we are proud of the robust monitoring and implementation framework of the strategy.
The National Anti-Corruption Strategy Steering Committee will oversee the successful implementation of the national strategy. ZACC will chair and ensure periodic meetings and regular reports to be made available to the public.
Several Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) have already been concluded with the following international partners, Zambia Anti-Corruption Commission and Botswana Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime on co-operation in combating corruption through mutual legal assistance, sharing of information informally and capacity building training among others.
Local partners that we have since concluded MoUs with include Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ), Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (PRAZ), University of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Republic Police, National Prosecuting Authority, Zimra, Department of Immigration, Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), Ezekiel Guti University, Auditor General‘s Office, Public Service Commission and Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (ICSAZ).
These MoUs will benefit Zacc in terms of training, collaborations, effect joint operations, access to financial transactions, extraditions, and easier and faster access to audit reports, among others.
Finally, the commission together with the NPA launched a National Anti-Corruption Awareness Campaign dubbed “corruption ends with you”, which is aimed at educating all different sectors of society on what corruption is, its societal harm, the roles of Zacc, NPA, ZRP and the Judiciary, and where to report corruption.
At the end of this campaign it is our hope that the public will have a better understanding of what corruption is, its effects and the roles of the different institutions in the value chain. The commission has also conducted public education in 210 schools in Zimbabwe and some public entities such as the Grain Marketing Board.
The commission is also engaging the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, and the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development, to assist in developing anti-corruption curricular for schools, colleges and universities.
In conclusion, I would like to call on all Zimbabweans to join hands in the fight against corruption. This is not a fight that one institution alone can undertake.
It takes a joint effort from all stakeholders. This is our Zimbabwe and we owe it to future generations to end corruption and recover our resources siphoned out of this country.
The commission welcomes constructive criticism as this will assist us in improving our work. With my commissioners and staff, we stand ready to engage everyone regardless of race, colour or political affiliation.
Justice Loyce Matanda-Moyo is the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission. Zacc Toll Free Lines: 08010101/08004367; Landline: + 263 242 369602/5/8. Corruption reports to [email protected] [email protected]