ALL public officials should publicly declare their assets and sources of wealth to engender transparency, curb corruption and end criminal abuse of public funds, Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko has said.
Speaking exclusively to The Sunday Mail last week, VP Mphoko said he was prepared to lay bare what he owned and encouraged other officials to follow suit.
The VP, who oversees policy co-ordination and implementation in Government, said officials found guilty of unduly benefiting should be stripped of the assets.
He called for closer monitoring of ministries and parastatals by Parliament, saying the legislature should be involved in public tender processes.
Imposition of stiff penalties by the courts, he said, had failed to curb corruption because convicted culprits could live “like kings” in prisons after “buying” correctional services officers.
Said VP Mphoko: “I wish we were like the Chinese or the Muslims who say if you steal they will cut your hand off; the Chinese would take you to the firing squad straight away. But here people have feelings for other people.
“The solution we keep on talking about and have stiff penalties. But stiff penalties also are questionable because if you are taken to prison, especially when there is politics of poverty, everybody is accessible to be bought.
“Stiff penalty? You take a man to prison and in the prison he lives like a king because he has money.’’
Government is working on a law to compel public officers and senior executives at parastatals and State-owned enterprises to declare their assets.
The Public Sector Governance Bill will empower the Office of the President and Cabinet to monitor board members and senior executives at parastatals and State enterprises, and examine their assets and business interests to ensure good corporate governance.
Also, permanent secretaries will no longer sit on public boards, while directors who fail to declare assets and/or financial interests will face prosecution.
The Bill, which is being driven by the Finance and Economic Development Ministry, feeds into Government’s Results-Based Management System.
Many countries have similar legal instruments.
Said VP Mphoko: “The only way corruption can end is that first and foremost let us declare our assets, let us declare assets as leaders.
“Those who have crossed the line all that they have stolen must be taken and given to the people.
“Arresting alone doesn’t help — thati’zinto linike abantu back — just take the things and give them to the people because it’s not yours, you are now stealing from the people.
“Going to jail does not help anybody; tora zvinhu udzose kunevanhu. This applies to everybody, including political leaders. Even myself, of course!”
VP Mphoko added that the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission was itself corrupt.
“(President Mugabe) has registered an anti-corruption body, look at the structures he has created to end corruption.
“Now the anti-corruption itself is now corrupt. The instrument that is supposed to take care of this problem is now corrupted.
“What we should do is declare assets — everybody — and see what our people have.”
VP Mphoko said some ministers had personalised portfolios.
“What has happened is that a number of ministries have been personalised; personalised in the sense that when you move into a ministry you remove everybody in that ministry including (parastatal) board members and put your own people.
“Why? If you are going into a ministry and you want continuity you will need those people.
“For checks and balances, in the 1980s, there was what was called an inter-ministerial committee; I remember very well we were about 15 members in that committee.
“What happened was no ministry could make big decisions on its own, it was monitored by the committee.
“Until such a time I don’t know how they made it that ministries now just do things on their own.
“I would suggest that to monitor some of these things and close down these holes we have Parliamentary Portfolio Committees, they can also be used, for instance, whenever there is a tender in any ministry, let the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee be involved.
“If there is something which involves the Ministry of Transport, let the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport be involved.
“I think that will help us a lot by putting checks and balances. Otherwise if we don’t do that people will continue doing the wrong things.”