6 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Justice Ministry Battles Corruption

THE Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs is carrying out a house cleaning exercise to stamp out corruption corroding the country's justice delivery system.

This follows the submission of a dossier by a whistleblower with serious allegations of corruption leveled against one of the departments within the Justice Ministry.

Deputy Minister of Justice, Obert Gutu, who chairs the Anti-Corruption Taskforce in the ministry, confirmed receiving the dossier, saying the allegations were so serious that action needed to be taken soon.

"There are serious allegations of corruption but I cannot give you details on the nature of the accusations as yet since we are still carrying out investigations," said Gutu who could not disclose which of the ministry's departments had been implicated in acts of corruption.

But on a social networking site, Gutu had earlier posted that he had received a dossier from a law firm containing serious allegations involving some corrupt lawyers, corrupt conveyance clerks, corrupt Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) officials and corrupt Deeds Office workers.

He highlighted that the syndicate was creating fake capital gains tax clearance certificates resulting in massive short-changing of Treasury.

This week, the deputy minister told The Financial Gazette that he would meet with the various heads of departments this month where the matter is expected to be discussed in detail.

While investigations are ongoing, the ministry has set up an anti-corruption hotline in Gutu's office to facilitate easy reporting of corrupt tendencies.

Last month, Gutu and the then president of the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) Tinoziva Bere charged that corruption at the Deeds Office was rampant despite the setting up early last year of a task force to tackle the vice.

The Deeds Office falls under the Ministry of Justice.

Gutu said there was "all pervading corruption" not only at the Deeds office but throughout the justice delivery system.

He alleged that a number of lawyers in the country were corrupt and some of them were at the forefront of facilitating fraud at the Deeds Office.

The LSZ concurred with Gutu saying while these corrupt lawyers were few, their actions were poisoning the whole fraternity.

Much of the activities involve assisting in processing of fraudulent title deeds and or sales of property and bribing officers to accelerate registrations.

A 16 member committee to deal with corruption and mismanagement at the Deeds Office set up in May last year is still to submit its findings and recommendations.

The task force had members drawn from the LSZ (conveyances), the Zimbabwe Republic Police, the High Court, the Surveyor General's Office, Deeds Office, ZIMRA, Estate Agents Council and the Registrar General's Office. Fidelis Maredza, the chief registrar of Deeds and Companies chaired the taskforce.

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