31 July 2012

Zimbabwe: Transparency, Accountability Vital for Development


Reports that Members of Parliament who abused the Constituency Development Fund may face a jail term of up to five years if a Bill being concluded by the Government to punish the offenders sails through are most welcome.

When the Minister of Finance Tendai Biti announced that Government had budgeted money to help legislators spearhead development in their constituencies, many people, mainly in the rural areas, thought they would have more dip tanks, better roads, more schools and clinics.

Although the Government intends to have CDF looters and their accomplices jailed for five years if the new law comes into effect, the most disappointing thing is that members of the current Parliament who abused the money will be not be penalised.

The law does not operate in retrospect and the new law is meant for future legislators, whom we doubt will be foolish enough to abuse the money.

It is our understanding that the law was supposed to deal with members of the current Parliament who took advantage of the system to enrich themselves.

Although Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs permanent secretary Mrs Virginia Mabhiza announced that the law would establish a board that governs the CDF, it is intriguing to know how autonomous the board would be.

Previously, such boards have failed to make any impact and in some cases they have failed to nail the offenders who later emerge to be more powerful.

It is amazing that Government set up a fund and distributed money to legislators without provisions to nail abusers.

The questions that arise are why were bodies such as the Ministry of Finance, the Attorney General's Office and the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General not consulted when the CDF was launched?

Government should also suspend the distribution of money from the CDF to current legislators until all loose ends are tied up to avoid unnecessary waste of taxpayers' money.

The country is under illegal sanctions and the money being given to the legislators without any form of accountability should be channelled towards other critical areas.

Although Government is of the opinion that legislators can supervise development in their areas, it is our understanding that there are already some Government arms such as the office of the District Administrator that manage these projects.

The money in some areas had been a source of conflict as centres of power emerged to manage some projects that were left by some donors.

The abuse of the money by some legislators also calls for the people in future to choose leaders of repute who will not abuse the money and trust bestowed on them.

In future, it is important for authorities to come with proper mechanism to manage the funds.

This can be done by involving all stakeholders in a constituency to come up with developmental projects they require for their area.

Critical Government ministries such as Finance, Local Government, Rural and Urban Development, Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs should also be involved.

The three ministries should have the responsibility to approve Constituency Development Projects and agree to release the funds directly to those awarded tenders to carry out such projects to their satisfaction.

Transparency and accountability are the most integral components that are needed to nip corruption and self-aggrandisement in the bud and propel our country to better heights in terms of development.

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