Anti-corruption drive needs corresponding cultural response
By Byron Mutingwende
The fight against corruption requires the corresponding cultural response at the institutional or individual level as measured through attitudes, behaviours and knowledge of the society, Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) has said.
The sentiments were expressed during TIZ’s third National Anti-Corruption Stakeholder Policy Dialogue aimed at fostering Zimbabwe’s culture for public accountability and improved public service delivery.
Mary Jane Ncube, the Executive Director of TIZ said that Zimbabwe had a progressive Constitution whose general goodness had not translated into strengthened public accountability and integrity measures nor improved public confidence in the fight against corruption.
“Yet, the fight against corruption is a key priority expressed in the ZimASSET Public Administration and Governance Cluster and the 2015 State of the Nation Address (SONA) 10 Point Plan. These priorities are also reinforced by regular pronouncements against corruption at the senior levels of government.
“Zimbabwe has often touted statements that suggest that it has zero tolerance to corruption but without the corresponding cultural response at the institutional or individual level as measured through attitudes, behaviours and knowledge of the society,” Ncube said.
In the country, the institutions to fight and combat corruption in Zimbabwe include: the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC), the Prosecutor General (PG) and the Zimbabwe Republic Police Zimbabwe (ZRP).
Analysts note that there absence of clear demarcation of power and mandates among these bodies often leads to weak inter-agency coordination and cooperation.
TIZ provided recommendations that include: the decentralisation as opposed to centralisation of anti-corruption responsibilities; whether ZACC’s oversight role could be enhanced by making ZACC recommendations binding on the subject institutions and granting ZACC independent powers of arrest, search and seizure and prosecution and establishing special corruption crimes courts.
On criminalisation of public sector corruption, TIZ said that in terms of the criminal law, passive bribery of ‘agents’- public officers, parliamentarians, judges and anyone in the private sector – excludes persons performing unpaid services or functions for the state or a public enterprises.
TIZ noted that the country has not criminalized illicit enrichment although there are progressive codes of conduct. It added that criminalization of political corruption is silent in the Criminal code, Prevention of Corruption Act and other domestic law, despite its inclusion at international law.
“There are also no minimum mandatory sentences for corruption offences and sentencing is subject to judicial discretion. Finally,laws do not currently provide for the protection of whistle blowers of corruption related offences. Some key recommendations include: introducing and enforcing asset and income declarations applicable to high-level public officials; establishment of corruption offences under consideration as serious offences, establishment of minimum sentences for corruption cases and protection of whittle blowers.”
Closely related to the issue of culture when it comes to impacting on the anti-corruption initiative is corporate social responsibility and public accountability.
A member of the Institute of Directors of Zimbabwe, Susan Mutangadura, said that good corporate governance promotes above average performance financially and operationally, accountability and creates socially responsibly enterprises. In that vein, she said that it deals a blow to such vices as corruption, fraud, money laundering and a culture of dishonesty.
Central to this was the ethical and effective leadership which should result in the beneficial governance outcomes for the organization. These include an ethical culture; sustainable performance and value-creation; adequate and effective control by the governing body, and; protecting and building trust in the organisation, its reputation and legitimacy.
“It is widely accepted that corruption, be it corporate or political, petty or grand,
has become a worldwide problem. The rise of worldwide democracy, accountability, and transparency has reduced the tolerance for corrupt behavior, and raised governance standards for both companies and nations as a whole.
“Corruption is a corrosive drain on public trust and on the legitimacy of public and private sector institutions. Corruption risks continue to pose a significant barrier to investment. It has the power to destroy firms and with them, the livelihoods of stakeholders who depend on a company’s success,” Mutangadura said.
Corruption has damaging effects which include the undermining of property rights; weakening of the rule of law; limiting private sector growth; eliminating incentives to invest; debilitating institutional capacity; and delaying economic and political development.
Thus ethics, anti-corruption and corporate governance practices have become mainstream considerations in business decisions about competitive advantage and financial performance. They have become strategic components of their long-term business sustainability.
Mutangadura added that as an anti-corruption tool, corporate governance introduces standards and mechanisms of transparency, accountability, and compliance with laws and regulations, which over the long run exposes bribery and illegal behavior that makes corporate corruption unsustainable.
These sentiments were echoed by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Jacob Mudenda, who said that corruption was a moral vice that leaves indelible marks on society.
“Corruption is a pervasive scourge in both the private and public spheres of governance. It violates and impairs the moral fabric of society, inclusive of the church which is indomitably supposed to be the bastion of goodwill, transparency, openness and the sanctuary of the thesis of morality and spiritual values of steadfast integrity,” Mudenda said.
He added that corruption had concomitant prejudicial effects on service delivery, businesses, civic society and even some supra-national bodies such as the United Nations agencies managing theatres of conflict.
Mudenda said that moral degradation and denudation in our society greatly manifests itself in the exponential growth of cases of corruption, hence the need for a cultural revolution that emphasizes the dignity of hard work.
“The fight against corruption must begin with a commitment to live the values espoused in our Constitution. As leaders, we have not only an obligation, but a duty to commit ourselves to the values of honesty, integrity and dignity of hard work,” Mudenda added.