Charles Mabhena

The recent allegations of corruption levelled against Higher and Tertiary Education Science and Technology Development minister Jonathan Moyo and his deputy Godfrey Gandawa has painted a gloomy mis-governance picture on high level public officials.

Zimbabwe is struggling to lure foreign investors into the country because of the purported bad image on the international market, attributed to lack of respect of property rights, and misappropriation of, and mistrust in funds handling.

Presenting at National Economic Symposium, in Harare yesterday (Wednesday 12 October) renowned economist and businessperson Nigel Chanakira said corruption by top officials is one of the chief culprits to economic decline, as it presents the nation in bad light, as a result he said, the country lost investments deals since 2015.

He urged the private and public sectors to clean their acts, and called on politicians to create enabling environment that promotes economic transformation.

“I call upon politicians to solve the politics, and let us (business) to solve the economy,” said Chanakira who is also Zimbabwe Investment Authority chairperson.

Officially opening the symposium today (13 October 2016) Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa said government’s desire is to eliminate all stumbling blocks that affect the doing of business in the country.

“I call upon every Zimbabwean to scale up the anti-corruption thrust by desisting from the act, and exposing those who are engaged it,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) and its partners’ Zimbabwe Corruption in Business Survey 2016 have reveals that rampant corruption is hampering the ease of doing business in the country. The survey identified the police and the State Procurement Board (SPB) as the most corrupt institutions in Zimbabwe.

According to the survey, the level of corruption since 2013, has increased a lot. Almost a third are being subjected to requests or demands for bribes, or what were felt to be unfair fines from public officials, in return for services on a daily basis, and almost half at least monthly.

Respondents were asked about their perception of 14 government departments and agencies when it comes to corruption, based on the proportion that named a particular agency as ‘always’, ‘almost always’ or ‘mostly’ corrupt, and the police came up tops.

“The Police, followed by the State Procurement Board (SPB) are deemed to be the most corrupt, by respondents, followed by ZIMRA and the City Health Department, and then Department of Works and Building Inspectorate, the Licensing Office at the Municipality, the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) and the Registrar of Companies,” reads the report.

The greatest areas where corruption occurs, or at least where bribes have been demanded from respondent organisations in dealing with various business processes, like when trying to apply for a license/permit, get an inspection conducted or approved or register a business.

The survey was carried out on the theme of “Cost of Compliance”, examining specific areas where opaque terms, duplicate regulations, lack of access to information or too much discretionary power given to a public sector agency or service provider is leading to opportunities and instances of transactional corruption and its effects on conducting business.

Experiences showed that the collection of taxes was less often a target of bribery by ZIMRA than were other business processes. The agency attempted to solicit a bribe for many of the aforementioned business processes, including the application for licenses, permits or conducting and approval of inspections, and at the border posts.

The City Council, City Health Department, Vehicle Inspection Depot (VID), and the Registrar of Companies or Registrar of Deeds are also quite often fingered as having been the instigators of extortion and bribery- states the report.

56 percent of respondents agreed that, were they to personally witness an incidence of corruption, bribery or extortion, they would know where to report this, usually naming the police, and then the anticorruption commission.

“Disturbingly, the likelihood of reporting is much lower than is knowledge of where to report, with just 27% stating that they are ’very likely’ and 14%, ‘likely’ to report a case, with 41% stating that they would not be likely to do so. The overriding reason why people would not make a report is a total lack of confidence that anything would be done about it (83%); people noted that corruption is endemic and goes right to the top, and 27 percent would not report for fear of being victimised,” says the report.

The main suggestion offered for limiting corrupt practices was to increase civil servants’ salaries (44%); 37% spoke of the need to close loopholes that exist in laws and regulations, 27% referred to the need to prosecute perpetrators (which is rarely done at present), 25% believe there to be a need to limit the discretionary powers of civil servants, and 23% noted that the introduction of computerised systems would go a long way towards limiting opportunities for corruption, such as for submission of tax returns.

No respondents declared themselves ‘very satisfied’ with the response of the government to fighting corruption over the past five years. Just 6% are satisfied, and 16% were ambivalent, but 14% are ‘somewhat dissatisfied’ and 62%, ‘very dissatisfied’. Finally, respondents were not optimistic about the future; 84% of the 161 respondents that offered additional comments at the end of the survey noted that corruption is so endemic is will be difficult to reduce it.

The Zimbabwe Business Transactional Corruption Survey is a result of collaborative initiatives of the three Business Membership Organisations (BMOs), Confederation of Zimbabwean Industries (CZI), Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC), and the Small and Medium Enterprises Association of Zimbabwe (SMEAZ).

This initiative envisages informing the BMOs’ advocacy agenda and policy dialogue with the Government of Zimbabwe on the subject of business corruption. The Survey was undertaken by the Centre for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), in partnership with Q-Partnership, a local Research firm, with technical assistance from USAID-funded Strategic Economic Research and Analysis (SERA).

The survey was in the form of a questionnaire, which consisted of structured questions delivered via one-on-one in-person interviews. Four hundred and three companies in Harare and Bulawayo were selected at random from membership lists from the participating Zimbabwean business membership organisations (BMOs).

According the parties who commissioned the survey, it will map recommendations for appropriate policy reforms to stem the escalation of business transaction costs and to enhance enterprise viability. It is therefore a building block towards equipping Zimbabwe’s private sector and public sector with an objective lever to anchor business-friendly economic policy.