`ZACC investigations unit lack expertise`

The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) has admitted that it lacks the expertise to prosecute high-level corruption cases which has seen some suspects going scot-free.  

Members of the public have lost faith in the anti-corruption rhetoric by the government as the corruption dragnet has so far failed to clean up the scourge especially in government.

Addressing delegates at a regional anti-corruption indaba hosted by Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) in Bulawayo Thursday, ZACC Commissioner John Makamure confessed that ZACC’s area of weakness was investigating and coming up with quality evidence.

“We all know that for someone to be convicted thorough investigations have to be taken and a docket has to be opened, submitted to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to be prosecuted. But if the investigations are weak and if the docket before the NPA is weak then you can’t expect any other result,” he highlighted.

Makamure said the new commission`s priority was strengthening its investigating unit and was currently seized with 20 high profile cases since coming into office.

“A high profile case is not only about a person but involves the magnitude of corruption. We need to be able to carry out thorough investigations so that the quality of the docket is very high and that’s the only way through which we can achieve a high conviction rate.

“So, the commission is now allocating adequate resources to capacitate our investigating unit and we have now increased collaboration with other agencies, in particular, the NPA to make sure that our investigations are up to standard,” said the commissioner.

He noted that one of the ways ZACC could come up with watertight cases was if citizens came forward with information.

“Corruption can be very difficult to prove. If we pay a bribe, there’s no documentation that I paid to you, even if I paid to a bank account, it is very difficult to prove that a bribe was paid to influence something. The evidence that we need is whether truly there was corruption in terms of any decision that was taken.”

Makamure added that corruption came in different forms such as nepotism, embezzlement, fraud, extortion and abuse of office, which is the “most common”.

“It is very difficult to prove abuse of office so evidence must come, which is why I was emphasising that ZACC can never be able to access the evidence unless there is cooperation from citizens. For example, on the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) case, people with access to documentation, reports and correspondence volunteer that information, which without it the investigators will find it difficult to acquire,” he said.

For this to work, the ZACC commissioner said there was a need for a strong Whistleblower Protection Act.

“We need legislation that will protect whistleblowers to come forward with information and we are moving very fast in engaging government to make sure a whistleblowers act is enacted. Zambia has a very good act and is working well,” Makamure said.

Makamure also denied claims that there is political interference in their work adding that there was political will to tackle corruption.

“There has been a significant improvement in resource allocation if you look at the supplement budget, ZACC received six times from what we had been allocated for the whole year. From the work we have carried out, I have not seen any political interference.”

He also shot down claims that ZACC was pursuing Zanu PF’s factional agenda by arresting former Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister Prisca Mupfumira over an alleged US$95 million corruption scandal emanating from NSSA.

“Her arrest was based on a forensic audit and the auditor general’s report, we don’t care if her name appeared on a list elsewhere, that’s immaterial,” Makamure said.

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