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ZACC aiming for 99% convictions

by Staff reporter
08 Aug 2021 at 06:18hrs | Views
FIRSTLY, I want to say that as ZACC we recognise the importance of meeting shareholder expectations. ZACC is wholly funded by Treasury and is, therefore, expected to account for the monies that it has received from Treasury. When the Commission took office we found that the previous Financial Statements from 2012 had not been done and neither were they audited. The Commission, therefore, undertook to have all the outstanding Financial Statements completed and audited and to date the Auditor General has audited 2012-2017 Financial Statements. ZACC has also submitted its 2018-2020 Financial Statements.

ZACC through the Office of the President and Cabinet submits to Parliament its annual report detailing all its activities, challenges and major plans. In essence, it is important that all ZACC activities be transparent not only to the public, but to all key stakeholders and that ZACC be accountable for the funding it receives from Treasury.

It is not a secret that corruption in Zimbabwe is rampant in all sectors of our economy that is, in Government, State Enterprises and Parastatals, NGOs and the Private Sector. In 2019 Zimbabwe was ranked 159/180 on the Corruption Perception Index. Thus we set ourselves some tough hurdles and challenging targets.

I am delighted to report that we met these targets and indeed, in several areas, we exceeded them. These results were achieved despite some major challenges, including Covid-19 pandemic, resistance and interferences from some individuals in offices of high authority. This makes the performance even more pleasing.

In support of His Excellency's stance on zero tolerance to corruption; ZACC established three Programmes to drive its strategy and realise the set targets and outcomes for 2021 in line with the National Development Strategy (NDS 1) namely, Corporate Affairs which supports the operations of ZACC, Combating Corruption comprising investigations and asset recovery where ZACC attributes sixty percent (60 percent) of its strategic focus and Prevention of Corruption comprising public education, systems and compliance and research where ZACC has attributed forty percent (40 percent) of its strategic focus.

In 2019, ZACC's strategic focus was to prioritise the investigation of high level corruption and cases involving high profile members of society. In the circumstances and on the basis of the report of the Auditor-General of Zimbabwe, ZACC opened active investigations in respect of all Ministries, Government departments and State enterprises implicated in the report with a view to bringing to book, all those implicated in any and all acts of corruption, theft, misappropriation, abuse of power and other improper conduct.

To date, ZACC has received a total of 157 high profile cases and has investigated 76, which is cumulative. ZACC engaged the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) who provided experienced staff to boost investigations. The Commission is grateful for the assistance.

We appreciate the Government for the powers of arrest as this has enabled our investigations to be completed within a reasonable period without requesting for the services of the police to arrest accused persons on our behalf. ZACC refers all completed investigations for prosecution to the National Prosecuting Authority. Once ZACC has investigated the matters and referred them to the NPA for prosecution — that is the end of ZACC functions. However, ZACC has taken an interest in how the NPA prosecutes its matters and has been sitting in all prosecution cases to witness such proceedings in court.

In-house, ZACC has put mechanism of vetting dockets before referral to the National Prosecution Authority. Be assured that we now have mechanisms in place to ensure quality investigations. As ZACC we are aiming at 99 percent convictions for all matters taken to court.

When we assumed office no asset recoveries were taking place. I am happy to announce that ZACC has since commenced parallel investigations in all its cases that is, pursuing criminal investigations as well as investigations that will lead to civil forfeiture. No one is going to continue to benefit from ill-gotten wealth. It should be known and appreciated within our nation that crime does not pay.

In that regard, I am happy that the Government through the Ministry of Finance fast tracked the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Amendment Act which enforces unexplained wealth orders. I however, bemoan the removal of ZACC as an enforcement agency for unexplained wealth orders and request the Ministry to consider amending the Act to include the Commission. The strategic focus for 2020 was recovery of assets and therefore the Commission established an Asset Forfeiture and Recovery Unit to conduct financial investigations and recover assets. The importance of capacity building in terms of recruitment and training cannot be emphasised. The Asset Forfeiture and Recovery Unit as well as the Investigations Department need to be sophisticated, well paid and technically sound to conduct thorough investigations, asset tracking and asset recovery thus building a strong asset-recovery component in the fight against corruption.

It is in that regard that ZACC partnered with national, regional and international bodies to have its officers trained. I am happy to report that such training has begun and is still on going.

In addition, the Commission has also received considerable support from Government which has enabled us to invest in highly qualified and motivated personnel who are critical to the Commission meeting our targets. However, we are also continuously lobbying Treasury for better conditions of service for ZACC officers as ZACC needs to attract and retain officers with special skills inclusive of legal, property valuation, engineers, financial intelligence, auditing and accounting skills.

ZACC will soon be presenting remuneration proposals for its officers' which is in line with best practices for instance Botswana, Zambia, Mauritius and Tanzania Anti-Corruption Agencies. This will ensure that the officers will not be susceptible to corruption.

Prevention is better than cure as the saying goes. Therefore, our anti-corruption drive is not only motivated by arrests. This year we are placing more emphasis on preventing corruption. In that regard, we have started a roundtable interaction with internal auditors for Government departments, Parastatals, Public entities and Commissions.

We want to ensure that all the recommendations in the Auditor General's reports are implemented. Accordingly, we are going to work with the internal audit departments of those institutions to ensure that all the recommendations are implemented.

We have been conducting compliance assessment, spot-checks, systems and processes review assessments in Rural District Councils, Ministries, Central hospitals, Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council, Urban Councils, Parastatals and Ministries. The Commission has also conducted several compliance spot checks on the management of Cyclone Idai resources in Chimanimani, procurement of Covid-19 PEPs and drugs among others.

ZACC examines the practices, systems and procurement procedures in the particular organisations to ensure they adhere to the best standards of good corporate governance and prevent corruption. We have also created a dashboard as a monitoring tool for the institutions. So after our compliance the checks we put institutions into categories red, orange and green. Red is for institutions with no systems or those that have systems by are non-compliant, green for those with systems and are implementing them and amber are institutions which are half way. We give them an implementation matrix and a time frame in which to ensure that the systems are in place. After the timeframe we return to the institution to carry out another compliance check to verify if they have complied with  As a result of these compliance checks as ZACC we have noted that Ministries that have an oversight role on State Enterprises and Parastatals are a cause for concern. Equally companies run by majority shareholders or family businesses are of serious concern in terms of their adherence to corporate governance principles. The Government needs to urgently review the powers of Ministries over State Enterprises and Parastatals under their purview to stem out this culture of looting in these State Enterprises and Parastatal by parent Ministries. It is our wish as ZACC that legislation amendments be made to the Anti-Corruption Commission Act to provide sanctions for non-compliance.

The Commission has conducted and disseminated several researches conducted to relevant stakeholders. These researches were motivated by the trends where corruption was most prevalent. Researches were conducted in the Health sector, Public Finance Management, Public procurement, mining sector, fuel sector among others.

In line with collaboration ZACC is also advocating for the strengthening of institutions with oversight roles in the fight against corruption like the ZRP, NPA, Judicial Service Commission, Financial Intelligence Unit, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority etc. by way of enhancing skills. The above institutions should be fully resourced and capacitated in order to effectively carry out their functions. We recognise that in order for ZACC to achieve its mandate it requires a strong communication culture. ZACC has, therefore, embarked on a cocktail of communication strategies including always being available to brief the public through the media on the status of our operations. Decentralisation is one of the key strategies for the Commission to ensure access to ZACC services. Treasury has concurred to the decentralisation of ZACC to six provinces. The Commission has decentralised to Bulawayo and Gweru as in the process of decentralising to four other provinces.

For the year 2021, ZACC plans to decentralise to most provinces in Zimbabwe and increase digital platforms. We are targeting to refer 180 dockets to the NPA, recover assets worth $600 million, introduce an Electronic Case Management System, increase compliance checks in public institutions in particular Local Authorities, strengthen witness and whistle blower protection and strengthen collaboration with local and international partners.

As a result of the above strategies Zimbabwe has improved in terms of ranking on the International Perception Index to 157/180 in 2020.

The ZACC Strategic Plan for 2021-2023 is also linked to the National Anti-Corruption Strategy 2020-2024 which was launched by His Excellency the President of Zimbabwe in July 2020. The NACS encompasses a multi-stakeholder approach in the fight against corruption. It is premised on six strategic objectives which are public awareness, protection of whistle blowers, recovery of assets, transparency and accountability in public entities, law enforcement, and increased level of political parties' transparency and accountability. I would also like to thank the Deputy Chair and Commissioners for their support. We have had solid years. The outlook is positive. The conditions are favourable. And ZACC is well positioned to continue to prosper into the future. I look forward to the years ahead with confidence.

Justice Matanda-Moyo made these remarks at the inaugural ZACC Annual General Meeting held virtually last Thursday.

Source - sundaymail