PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration has been warned against possible abuse of donations made towards curbing the spread of the deadly coronavirus in the country.
Last year, the country lost donations worth millions of dollars, which were contributed by well-wishers to help thousands of people who were displaced by cyclone Idai in Chimanimani and Chipinge in Manicaland, to thieves and government officials.
Jane Zhou, the Zimbabwe Coalition of Debt and Development (Zimcodd) executive director, said there was need for parliament to have an oversight role on all the donations made so far to reduce chances of corruption and embezzlement.
“Most often than not, authorities tend to ignore or circumvent fiscal rules, procedures and due processes in the mobilisation, allocation and utilisation of Public resources in times of crisis or disasters,” she said.
Although Zimbabwe has a progressive Constitution and other statutes guided by the Public Finance Management Act, which clearly sets out the principles and procedures for management of public resources including official development assistance and public debt, cases of corruption and abuse of funds continue to rise.
Several companies such as Delta Corporation, Standard Chartered Bank, Higherlife Foundation, Access Forex, Innscor Africa, Dairibord, the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange and Stanbic Bank among others have made donations running into millions of dollars and equipment towards eliminating the Covid-19 pandemic, which has so far affected over 2,5 million people and killed nearly 200 000 across the world.
However, this is all happening at a time parliament has suspended sitting to help reduce spreading of the novel virus raising fears that the donations could be looted.
Zhou said where parliament cannot convene physically, especially under lockdown, there is need for innovation to ensure that the institution continues with its triple roles of oversight, representation and legislation.
“The major area of interest is public procurement considering the immense procurement during Covid-19 must be done consistent with section 315 of the Constitution which provides that procurement is effected in a manner that is transparent, fair, honest, cost effective and competitive,” she said.
She added that the National Assembly plays a pivotal role in keeping checks and balances on the affairs of government including finance and appropriation decisions.
“Without parliamentary scrutiny, transparency and accountability may be undermined. This creates a conducive environment for corruption and abuse of public resources. Consequently, resources might not be used in the best interest of the public. In most cases it will benefit individuals leaving the bonafide beneficiaries in vulnerable state”.
Zhou noted that despite the lockdown, the voice of citizens remains imperative in influencing public decision on the mobilisation and utilisation of public funds.
“Response to Covid-19 requires everyone to put their hands on the deck. No institution or role can be trivialised- Parliament, Citizens and Civic Society Organisations and business must all work together to hold accountable and to close the gaps.
Peter Mutasa, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union president, concurred Zhou and added that “accountability systems in Zimbabwe have always been ignored even before the outbreak of Covid-19 and what the pandemic did was simply to exacerbate challenges of transparency and accountability.
“The challenge we have is that the lockdown did not only inactivate Parliament but rather fragmented the voice of citizens who have the right to demand for transparency and accountability in the management of resources.”
Meanwhile, Mnangagwa has assured the nation that all donations made by corporates and individuals towards the fight against Covid-19 will be accounted for.
“We assure the nation and the donors that your donations will be put to maximum use transparently with accountability,” he said.