An anti-corruption watchdog, Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) has welcomed the arrest of a Ministry of Health and Child Care official, Dr Portia Manangazira, who was recently arrested on corruption charges related to abuse of Covid-19 resources.
Dr Manangazira, Principal Director of Epidemiology and Disease Control in the ministry, is alleged to have illegally facilitated recruitment and training of 28 family members as community health workers and authorised the procurement of goods worth US$280 529 without due process.
In a statement, ZIMCODD said Dr Manangazira’s arrest was a commendable move towards the fight against corruption and should not be unnoticed.
“The abused money and fuel were part of the US$796 675 disbursed by the Health Ministry for the training of health workers. Her actions have detrimental effects on the government’s capacity to utilise scarce public goods in the nation’s best interests. Consequently, the majority of Zimbabweans will be denied life-saving vaccines, treatment, care and social protection,” said the anti-corruption watchdog.
Last year, former Minister of Health and Child Care, Obadiah Moyo was fired from his position due to procurement-related corruption scandals, which ZIMCODD said sets a bad precedent for other public officials.
On the same note, ZIMCODD called on the government to publish a comprehensive Covid-19 distribution matrix detailing all the resources received from development partners and those set aside by the government and how the resources have been used and, or distributed.
“Stronger safeguards, monitoring and regulation against corruption are urgently needed. The lack of fiscal transparency and public accountability on Covid-19 resources results in a myriad of challenges ranging from flouting of procurement procedures, mismanagement of funds, deepening public mistrust in the government as there is lack of a public feedback mechanism,” said the anti-corruption watchdog.
ZIMCODD, which embarked on a public expenditure tracking initiative called the Covid-19 Resource Tracker, claimed the country has the resources to fight the pandemic as it received over US$500 million from other governments, embassies and development partners to strengthen its response mechanism, according to its tracking efforts.
“However, the greatest hurdle to ZIMCODD’s resource tracking efforts is lack of access to official information on Covid-19 resource expenditure thereby overreliance on media reports. This is despite the fact that the effectiveness of the country’s response to the pandemic is largely dependent on transparent, accountable and prudent use of Covid-19 resources,” ZIMCODD.
ZIMCODD also continued its call for transparency in the management of Covid-19 resources to allay fears and negative public perceptions on the use of public funds set aside to fight the pandemic.
“In the context of scarce resources, public officials entrusted with public resources are expected to do the utmost to safeguard Covid-19 goods and resources. Transparent, accountable and prudent use of Covid-19 resources is central to the success of the National Covid-19 Response Strategy and to curb corruption and resource leakages in Zimbabwe.
The anti-corruption watchdog also nudged the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) to demonstrate the political will to wipe out corruption, by seeing to it that the Zimbabwe Anti Corruption Commission is fully capacitated to undertake its constitutional mandate without fear or favour.”