The Practical Aspects of the Fight against Corruption

The fight against corruption is indeed a cardinal one for any society. Corruption at any level and by any other name is undeniably corrosive. It is the trademark of any retrogressive society. Every sane person knows it. That is why every leader, even those who seem to benefit from it, condemn it by day, even as they condone it by night. In 2015 then President Mugabe pronounced “zero tolerance to the scourge of corruption” even as Zimbabwe continued its descent on the global corruption scale. Today, similar declarations abound.

How do we tell the difference? How do we tell the real fight from the adulterated; reality from fake? Though the tune and the dance seem different from those of yesteryear, can the man in the street know for certain that now is the era of belling the cat? What’s the benchmark? After all, the picture for ages has been something like this:

Namely, the arrest of some political figure followed by a less dramatic acquittal, typically after a long time of an on-and-off-and-on-again appearance at this and that Court. This has had the regrettable result of the public having to question the bona fides of the allegations.

In practical terms, what is the fight against corruption? What does it entail? Talking about the establishment of special Corruption Courts, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said the courts would have no sacred cows. “We are going down to the roots of corruption,” he said. “No stone will be left unturned; even the so-called big fish who sometimes get away with corruption will be pursued. Further, these courts will ensure all corruption cases are dealt with expeditiously. There will be a united effort (my emphasis) among the NPA, JSC, Attorney-General’s Office, Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission and police; and crack teams will be assembled where necessary.” (The Herald. 5 February 2018)

Needless to say, the fight against corruption is both proactive (preventative) and reactive. While the former is quiet and more effective, the latter is noisy, complex and costly. In the same Herald article, Zimbabwe Law Society president Mr Misheck Hogwe said that “It should be understood that corruption is one of the most complex crimes and needs a systematic approach” Indeed it should.

I did ask what the benchmark was. Let us have my take on that. To me it is the implementation of the last in the minister’s above sentences: a bona fide united front in this fashion:

While public debates of allegations, arrests, prosecutions and outcomes make all sorts of headlines and get official attention as well as funding, investigations only whimper in the background. Yet it goes without saying that successful outcomes are a result of resourceful investigations and astute prosecutorial work. On the same token, the allegation from which all this chain of events arises has to be well-founded. Let us look at each of these events in turn.

Allegation

What is the test criterion of a well-founded allegation? The long and short answer to this is that it should be free of malice. Whether the allegation is raised out of mere suspicion of wrongdoing, it should be well-founded, sound, logical and substantiated. This places the onus of evaluating a suspicion on the person raising the allegation. Many unsubstantiated allegations of corruption have found their way into the justice system, to the detriment of the integrity of the system.

Investigation

An investigation is an exercise to establish the truth. An investigation cannot create a case out of no case. Perpetrators of fraud and corruption will go to great length to conceal their crimes. It is the responsibility of the investigation to establish, not only the what, where, when, how and the who, but also ascertain the evidence thereof. Corruption is indeed a complex crime and it calls for an equally multifaceted investigative approach. This calls for directing attention to what is good and useful for uncovering the evidence and ignoring the rest.

The term “public-private partnership” has become quite popular in our political discourse. In this country, however, the practice has yet to find traction in the field of criminal investigations. In many countries the practice is a matter of cause. Modern fraud investigations will encompass a wide range of disciplines, including computer forensics, data/digital/ financial analytics, social mapping and so on. Experts in these investigative disciplines may not be found in the public sector. Many, if not most, are in private organisations and universities. Public-private partnership is therefore critical for successful outcomes.

Prosecution

In public discourse, prosecution is most often taken to be the low hanging fruit. It is where the most heat and noise come from. When the outcome is an acquittal it is the prosecution which often gets the rap. But, from what we have looked at above, the slap may not always be justified. When the case is politically sensitive talk of “persecution by prosecution” ensues. Just like an investigator, a prosecutor cannot create a case out of no case. Besides going to great length to conceal their crimes, perpetrators of fraud and corruption often create war chests to hire the best legal teams to defend them should they be caught. Public-private partnership in prosecution is therefore equally important for successful outcomes. Many “expert witnesses” may not be in the public sector.

Trial

An independent judiciary is of cause the icing on the cake. All players in the preceding stages are going to play their roles in good faith when they know that there is going to be a free and fair trial at the end of it all.

Conclusion

Finally, we have to keep in mind that the fight against fraud and corruption is an all embracing campaign, not merely uncoordinated battles. It should encompass both proactive and reactive measures. While the reactive actions of allegation, investigation, prosecution and trial generate heat and sound, the real test of a corrupt free society is in the proactive arena. How does society view corruption? Is a corrupt person ostracized reminiscent of a child molester? If not, why and what should be done? There may not be any easy answers. But one thing is certain: Corruption should be made to be abhorred through socialization and education.


Caleb Mutsumba
Forensic Audit Consultant
Mobile +263 712 620287 / WhatsApp:+263 772 466540
Skype: caleb.mutsumba
LinkedIn:- http://zw.linkedin.com/in/calebmutsumba
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Twitter:- @Caleb_Mutsumba

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The Zim. Gov. 2016 National Budget Statement on “Anti-Corruption Thrust”

ZimGov

XVIII. ANTI-CORRUPTION THRUST
1355. Mr Speaker Sir, Government reiterates zero tolerance for corruption in all sectors of the economy in order to foster good governance.

1356. Given that corruption has permeated every fabric of our national life and character, and is now in our blood as it were, and reminded of a translation of a Shona saying, “If you chase two rabbits at the same time, you never catch any”, it is imperative that we develop strategies that identify the most damaging forms of corruption.

1357. Accordingly, Government’s anti-corruption thrust in 2016 will target wide spread corruption through inflated and unrealistic pricing of goods and services sourced through the public procurement system, and leakages at our country’s borders.

Leakages at Borders
1358. Mr Speaker Sir, there are challenges with revenue leakages at border posts due to smuggling and corruption, with such activities depriving the fiscus of resources that should be deployed towards national infrastructure development and service delivery.

1359. Government is putting in place various measures to deal with the scourge. Implementation of some of these will be immediate, while others will require investment and time.

Immediate Measures
• Establishment of transparent systems for handling goods, vehicular and human traffic passing through our borders, including adherence to the principle of “First Come, First Served”;

• Installation of Closed Circuit Cameras at all critical points across the country’s points of entry;

• Introduction of Client Timeline Service Registers;

• Automation of systems at all border posts, parallel to CCTV coverage; and

• Visible Clients Public Notices of processes and timelines for delivery of various border posts services.

1360. Mr Speaker Sir, harnessing Information Communication Technology not only speeds up service delivery processes, but also optimises use of online platforms which minimise physical interface between service providers and their clients, which ordinarily creates opportunities for corrupt practices.

1361. These measures should be in place by the first half of 2016.

Procurement & Inflated Pricing
1362. Mr Speaker Sir, with respect to public procurement, rent seeking activities and behavior increase the cost of implementing projects and service delivery.

1363. Corruption challenges in this area are being addressed through a review of the governing framework and institutional arrangements to enhance transparency and accountability.

1364. As already alluded to, the conduct of procurement transactions will be devolved to the procuring entity level, while the State Procurement Board will have a framework setting and monitoring role to ensure procuring entities operate within the agreed parameters. This will deal with the potential conflict of interest that arises from the Board’s current dual transacting and oversight roles.

1365. The devolution will concurrently improve timeliness and efficiency in concluding procurement transactions by allowing managers the latitude to make procurement decisions within frameworks set by the State Procurement Board, while making such managers directly accountable for decisions.

1366. These will be complemented by provisions for:

• Review mechanisms to facilitate verification of bidders’ capacity;
• Publication of all contract awards and prices;
• Publication of mandatory progress and contract completion reports; and
• Reconciliation of above reports to budgets and timelines, to foster transparency and accountability.

1367. Government will also embrace the e-procurement platform to minimise opportunities for corrupt practices, while getting access to a wider selection of potential suppliers.

Anti-Corruption Agencies
1368. Mr Speaker Sir, efforts are underway to adequately capacitate the Anti-Corruption Agencies to effectively discharge their mandates in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

1369. Furthermore, appointments of the Commissioners of the Anti-Corruption Commission should be announced soon, following their interviews conducted by Parliament in line with the Constitution.