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Zimbabwe's Anti-Graft Commission Decries Government Meddling

Money on scale of justice

Zimbabwe's Anti-Corruption Commission, currently investigating a number of government officials for alleged graft, says it is not as independent as it ought to be, blaming meddling by the ministry of homes affairs.

Commission chairman Danford Chirindo told a parliamentary committee on defense and home affairs that his panel will soon approach the House of Assembly seeking clarity on its mandate.

Chirindo said for his commission to be effective, it should be allowed to operate independently of the home affairs ministry.

"We will be recommending a review of the status and operations of the state department in the ministry of home affairs, he said, adding the move was aimed at avoiding "conflict and guarantee the independence of ZAC which is already enshrined in the constitution."

He urged government to harmonize some of the country’s anti-graft laws so his commission can deal effectively with corruption. He added however, that severe budgetary constraints were hampering the fight against corruption.

The commission requires a staff compliment of 204, but currently only has 57 workers.

Collaborating with the police, the commission recently arrested a number of lawmakers for abusing constituency development funds. It however, withdrew some of the cases before plea, allegedly under pressure from the attorney general's office.

Home Affairs Permanent Secretary Melusi Mtshiya, meanwhile, told the same committee that the Zimbabwe Republic Police was also failing to operate effectively due to lack of resources, including money, gadgets and uniforms.

Elsewhere, fraud cases were said to be soaring in Zimbabwe, according to a Africa Fraud Barometer survey.

The report, released by top auditing firms KPMG and Ernst & Young Africa, found Zimbabwe accounting for 32 percent of Africa’s fraud cases reported last year from July to December, landing slightly behind South Africa at 35 percent, and ahead of Nigeria at 22 percent.

Overall 520 fraud cases involving $3.7 billion were recorded in the second half of last year, down from $7.2 billion from the first half of the year.

Hardest hit by fraudulent activity is government and the public sector, with 39 percent of all cases, five percent lower than in the first half of the year.

Developers of the barometer said their intention was to form a bigger picture on the prevalence of fraud in Africa.

"At the same time, we are still dealing with an often negative perception of Africa, we therefore, see ourselves as risk analysts and would like to provide information that allows potential investors to assess and conceptualize risk on the African continent,” said Petrus Marais developer of the barometer and KPMG Global Leader for Forensics.

He told VOA reporter Tatenda Gumbo that Zimbabwe cases are unique.

"Timing is everything, particularly as it relates to Zimbabwe and the calculation of a dollar value and the perpetration and reporting of this particular incident is from hyperinflation to dollarization," said Marais,

"While we were compelled for objective reasons to do a straight calculation, I think that in reality because of the timing difference, the amount was substantially less than is appears to be."

Economist John Robertson said prior to the dollarization, fraudulent practices, mainly in the public sector, were undetectable.

He observed that it’s far more complicated now for fraudsters to continue to steal from the government, and would expect to see cases of fraud lessen in future reports detailed by the auditors.