By Nevanji Munyaradzi Chiondegwa
Genesis 27:20 And Isaac said unto his son, How is it that thou found it so quickly, my son? And he said, Because the Lord thy God brought it to me.
I have often boldly declared that I would take care of corruption in Zimbabwe within three weeks if given the powers to fight corruption and if the laws necessary for the bruising battle are put in place and as always my guiding principle has been that age-old question from that patriarch of the Jews Isaac to his son Jacob when he pretended to be Esau: “How is it that thou found it so quickly, my son?”
To those not familiar with said scripture, maybe a little bit of background on it. Isaac was now old and blind. He had two twin sons, Esau and Jacob.
Esau was the oldest and his favorite and a hunter of wild game. Jacob on the other hand was their mother’s favorite and was a keeper of cattle and sheep.
Now on nearing his death, Isaac decided to bless his son Esau and therefore asked him to take up his weapons, that is his quiver of arrows and his bow and go out in field and hunt him game and prepare it for him as he liked it so he may bless him.
The mother hearing this connived to steal the blessing for her own favorite, Jacob and asked him to go take from the flock two lambs and then pretend to be Esau and steal the blessings that way. Old Isaac was fooled yes and blessed the wrong son but his iconic question still stands as a true test for measuring the source of wealth.
The reason this story is important is based on the fact that it is the first known case of fraud recorded in the Holy Book of the Christians.
How corruption takes root
It clearly lays out how corruption occurs. There has to be a will to defraud, a connivance, the right thing to do, the initial fear and conscience strike and then overcoming that and getting into it. It leads to the reduction in the balance of what is stolen; two lambs were stolen from the flock in the story.
So it was not only a blessing that was stolen but also the livestock. The loss to Esau was actually thrice in that he lost his birthright, his blessing and part of his share of the flock not to speak of a mother conniving to rob him of all that and even using her skill to help in robbing him.
This is exactly what happens in the cases of corruption; more than what is actually stolen or diverted. There is the law of unintended consequences. A whole lot of things are affected by a singular act of stealing from say funds for road construction.
Accidents will occur leading to loss of lives, there will be no transport there leading to underdevelopment and obviously delays in accessing the area in the event of a need, people die in houses, children cannot go to school, babies are born under unhealthy conditions leading to high infant mortality. The economy of that area shrinks; taxes from that area are lower and so on and so forth.
The cost of corruption
The cost of corruption cannot and must never be quantified only in terms of the figure stolen or recoverable. Even if we are to recover the figure stolen, time value of money will actually show that the value of the dollar stolen and the value of the dollar recovered is not the same.
Now as any student of Accounting and Auditing will tell you, to every transaction there is an equal and corresponding transaction. This principle ensures something for anyone wishing to trace unexplained source of wealth and even unexplained wealth; a paper trail.
It is easy really to follow where one got his money, where he invested it, how much he made from said investments, what taxes he paid, what assets he acquired, legal obligations, license payments and all the other stuff.
All this can be checked without much sophistication but we tend to want to make it sound and look so complicated that it baffles and confounds so many such that in the end, we get nothing done on the said issues.
What laws are available to fight corruption
What laws there are to fight corruption though not enough can actually be used quite effectively to curb it or even eradicate it.
The problem is a general lack of will in those that must be fighting it. For me, it is the government (read politicians) but rather those in the service like the Permanent Secretaries, Principal Directors, Directors and their deputies who should be leading the fight if it is in government.
I know of no politician who wants things to go badly or corruption to occur in manner that is detrimental to them losing votes and their positions.
I also know of no politician who gets into government knowing the system and how to steal from it.
It is then civil servants, yes, the same civil servants who work in the system that are rather in the know-how of how to get around the system so to speak. They teach the Ministers what to steal and how to steal it so that they too can steal and cannot be held accountable.
Parastatal and departmental heads are the ones who know where the money is, how to steal from tenders, how to pay out without any work being done.
The cancer itself is within
They approve the payments and all. So to expect the Ministers to supervise each and every activity of parastatals and departments under them is to expect superhuman effort from them.
Honestly if we followed laid down procedure, we can curb corruption. We can also fight it. An audit reveals if the person, in the execution of their duties followed laid down procedure or not. If they did not, then they are held accountable for they did not act as per expectation. Simple!
We have a police force, we have ZIMRA, we have courts, we have a lot of other security organs and we even have a Comptroller General, an Auditor General and an Ombudsman all to fight corruption and can fight it if they so choose and if they are not compromised.
We waste resources creating agencies and special prosecuting units that should not even be created instead of simply activating those that already exist and make them work through the correct legislation and of course removing the deadwood.
Investigate, arrest, prosecute and sentence
My operating principle would be: investigate, arrest, prosecute and sentence! Yes, the moment there is a whiff of a scandal or suspicion, chances are high something corrupt is happening or happened. Why is there suspicion?
That alone is good enough to set a good investigator after you. ZIMRA then carries out a lifestyle audit, the Auditor General audits the organization you work for, and salaries that you have earned are known and all. So any unexplained wealth and nay income from sources unknown is forfeited and arrests made, jail terms imposed.
How can all this take more than a month if the intention and manpower is there? Manpower is plenty in this country and they are all definitely more than willing to do something about the supposed corruption in high places.
Let us start caring about future generations and ask ourselves if we are leaving anything for them. What legacy are we leaving them and can they in the future speak of us with praise and say: they did well for us?
How to fight corruption
So from one simple question; How is it that you found it so quickly, a whole method of fighting corruption and defeating it can be worked out and it will succeed. Why we do not do it beats me honestly.
It is as if we actually do not want to fight it or its consequences. We cannot focus on the scab on the back when there is a bleeding wound on our eye.
How will we see the wound on the back? We cannot want to deal with the effects of corruption like economic turmoil, loss of investor confidence, low Foreign Direct Investment, bad credit ratings, financial hemorrhaging without solving the real cause of all this.
Let us plug the loopholes the thieves use then we can deal with the problem in totality.
How can we be silent? Is there not a cause?
Homeland or Death!
Chiondegwa is a freelance writer. He writes for Zimbabwe Digital News in his personal capacity. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Zimbabwe Digital News.
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