THE ZIMBABWE ANTI-CORRUPTION COMMISSION PRESS STATEMENT.
The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, in the past 3 to 4 weeks, has received a lot of coverage, some of it good and some bad, in regard to ongoing investigations relating in particular to NIEEB, ZMDC and ZINARA, and its operations in general.This press conference will seek to answer questions and clarify the situation relating to the role of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission in the current operations.
The Commission wishes to clarify its position in regard to the following;
Questions have been raised as to how and why ZACC initiates investigations in general and the current ones in particular.
The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission is empowered by the supreme law of the country, the Constitution under Section 100 (as amended) and the Anti-Corruption Commission Act (9:22) to investigate allegations of corruption and impropriety arising from the following:
• Walk-in reports from the public.
• Submitted written reports.
• Newspaper and media reports.
• Findings arising from its own or that of other organisational reviews.
• Where on its own initiative, it may reasonably suspect that corruption may be likely to occur or is occuring.
While reports from the public and institutions are welcome, clearly the Zimbabwe Anti -Corruption Commission has a right to institute investigations on its own initiative where it deems it fit to do so. Thus the investigation of high profile persons must not invariably be linked to external and ulterior motives.
Notwithstanding the above, Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission also took note of various media utterances, of very highly placed personage such as the President, Vice -President and other high placed dignitaries.
At no point in time did the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission receive financial and material incentives from anyone to start or pursue investigations.
2. SEARCH WARRANTS.
Assertions have been made that defective search warrants were obtained from a High Court Judge in order to pursue under-hand and malicious investigations against certain organisations, their officials, respective Ministries and Ministers.
The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission wants to put it on record that it had exhausted all prescribed procedures and avenues for obtaining search warrants, including approaching the police and magistrates courts. The following is a full account of this effort to obtain search warrants.
On the 26th of February 2013, ZACC approached the Provincial Magistrate Ms. Marehwanazvo Gofa for two search warrants. There was some back and forth on the relevant sections of the law between ZACC and the Provincial Magistrate and on the 1st of March 2013, the Provincial Magistrate denied the application.
On the 4th of March 2013, we then approached the ZRP Dispol for Harare Central and Suburban as justices of the peace and the officers controlling the police districts we intended to make searches in. The police officers refused to sign any warrant, but conceded that they would provide ZACC with accompanying details should the court sign the search warrants.
On the 5th of March 2013, we approached the Attorney General’s office for assistance in the matter, as our legal advisor, in terms of the Anti-Corruption Commission Act. We indicated that the police had refused to assist and that the Provincial Magistrate had also denied us the search warrant. The AG’s office advised us that the issue of a search warrant was an administrative matter and accordingly the Chief Magistrate could overrule the Provincial Magistrate in administrative matters. The AG’s office then advised us to approach the Chief Magistrate for assistance.
On the same day, 5th March, we approached the Chief Magistrate for assistance. After presentation of our case the Chief Magistrate refused to override the Provincial Magistrate’s decision, indicating that such an action would be interference with the Provincial Magistrate judicial independence.
On the 10th of March, ZACC called the Registrar of the High Court to verify if judges of the High Court were justices of the peace. The Registrar then indicated that since the Act was silent on the matter, the ZACC could bring the application for the search warrants before the High Court and he would place the application before a judge who could then decide on the search warrants and decide to issue them or not.
Having exhausted all the administrative channels, ZACC then took the application for the search warrants to the High Court on the morning of the 11th of March 2013. The application for the search warrants was placed before the judge who duly signed the search warrants.
Having failed to obtain these search warrants as outlined above, the Commission decided to seek the authority of the High Court as a court of Higher instance.
If the application is to be deemed fraudulent it must be proved that it was made with the intention to deceive but the efforts outlined above clearly show neither deception nor malice.
Clearly, the High Court judge believed that our application had legal merit, otherwise he would not have granted the request. He must have believed that he had the power to do so, otherwise he would have declined the application and directed us to follow the correct procedure.
The option to obtain a search warrant from the High Court was exercised after numerous efforts failed to secure one from the police or magistrates Court. This was unusual, as search warrants are ordinarily given without much ado as the record shows, even as recent as in the past two weeks. Section 2 of the Schedule to the Anti-Corruption Commission Act as read with Section 13 of the same Act clearly indicates that the Commission has the power to obtain as opposed to request or apply for a search warrant. Further the Act(Section 13(b)) empowers the Commission to conduct a search without the presence of a police officer where any delay involved in obtaining the accompaniment of a police officer would defeat the object of the search, entry or seizure. Search warrants do not indicate that the Commission has declared a person or party guilty, it is merely an attempt to establish facts based on documentary or other evidence.
3. POLITICISATION OF INVESTIGATION
There have been insinuations that the investigations of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission have been dictated to by political and or party political motivations that seek to denigrate or derail the indigenisation programme or to give advantage to political elements of a particular persuasion.
An understanding of how the Commission works would perhaps shed light and dispel controversy around the investigations;
a) When a report is received, it is vetted at investigation level as to whether or not it is a mandate case, that is, whether there is a potential case to be made for the existence of an opportunity or occurrence for corruption.
b) The new case is then tabled at an investigations committee, which further gives direction on the merits of the case and the process of investigations. At least four Commissioners are members of this committee.
c) The case is then further tabled for discussion at a full Commission meeting, where again its merits and investigation procedures are reviewed and direction given.
d) This update process is then repeated as part of the monitoring and evaluation process fort-nightly.
The adoption of cases to investigate is not the prerogative of one or two members who could use their positions to push for a particular outcome or agenda. The individual and political diversity of the Commission would make a political or sectoral agenda difficult to pursue or achieve.
4. THE INTEGRITY AND SUITABILITY OF COMMISSIONERS
This brings us to the question of the integrity and suitability of Commissioners appointed to the Commission. Several aspersions have been cast on the Commission as to the integrity and suitability of present Commissioners.
Articles in The Herald of 18th of February 2013 and 18th and 19th of March 2013 published stories that insinuated that Commissioners are corrupt and have compromised integrity and therefore unsuitable to continue in their appointments.
Articles in The Herald of 18th of February 2013 questioned the integrity and suitability of commissioners appointed to the Commission by his Excellency the President on 1 September 2011. The Constitution states that Persons appointed to the Anti-Corruption Commission shall be persons of integrity chosen for their knowledge of and experience in administration or the prosecution or investigation of crime or for their general suitability for appointment.
The appointment of people to the commission by the President suggests that the President would have been satisfied that they met the above-mentioned criteria, including the required standard of integrity and suitability. To question the appointment of Commissioners is to question the judgement of the President in regard to the integrity and suitability of the Commissioners.
The Sunday Mail of 10th and 17th and the Herald of the 18th and 19th of March, indicated that the current Commission corruptly received and has continued to enjoy gifts and other benefits from Dr Gideon Gono in particular. To support this assertion they quoted a memorandum of agreement entered between the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and the staff (not commissioners, but staff) of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission. This MOU was in regard to a quasi-fiscal arrangement between the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and the staff of the Commission. It must also be borne in mind that the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe was at that time providing quasi-fiscal support for most, if not all, government and state institutions. It is common cause that such quasi-fiscal support has since ceased to exist and no such program is in place in relation to the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission or to any other institution that we know of. To single out the Commission as being corrupt for receiving support that was being availed to many other institutions would be unfair and a distortion of the reality at the time. The debate would have been more plausible if the question had been about how the quasi-fiscal support was then used within the Commission.
Secondly, the current Commission was only sworn into office on 1 September 2011 whilst the alleged transaction took place in October 2008 and therefore could not have been party to the transaction that is being touted as having corruptly enriched the sitting Commissioners.
The current Commission and Commissioners have not received and do not receive, personal or organisational assistance of any form shape or fashion from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, or indeed from any other beneficiary except Treasury and Ministry approved bilateral arrangements.
5. LABOUR ISSUES
It is true that the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission has Labour related issues and cases. These are, mainly emanating from the absence of approved conditions of service, absence of signed and confirmed contracts of employment, and generally low levels of remuneration.
The Commission has worked hard at coming up with suitable conditions of service and it has submitted a draft for approval to the relevant Ministry and awaits its approval any day now.
Certain staff members claimed and failed to prove that they are entitled to certain benefits and conditions of service in the absence of a signed formal contract. A few were seconded to the Zimbabwe anticorruption Commission from other state and government institutions and had signed contracts with those entities as in the case with the CEO who had signed a contract with the Office of the President and Cabinet. The relevant authority in its discretion has since recalled him. We are not at liberty to speculate as to the reasons and the timing of this recall which only the relevant Ministry is able to answer.
In regards to reports that Commissioners enriched themselves whilst staff are earning as low as $11.97; the fact is that outside of Treasury, which has claimed to be financially constrained for a considerable time now, the Commission receives allocated funds from Treasury and from no other place. Commissioners receive from these allocated funds the stipulated monthly entitlements and benefits and do not and literally cannot award themselves fuel and other benefits willy-nilly. Even further from the truth is the allegation that Commissioners awarded themselves as much as 1400 L of fuel as quoted in the newspapers.
The commission is eager to see our staff remunerated in a way that would cushion them against vulnerability to corrupting influences as best as is possible, knowing full well that no amount of remuneration can eliminate the temptation and vulnerability to corruption.
6. NO MASS RESIGNATIONS
Having dealt with the above issues, the Commission would like to clearly state that it has not received nor has there been any consideration regarding mass resignations from Commissioners. The alleged mass resignations are a product of public speculation and media sensationalization.
7. CONCLUDING REMARKS
The Commission wishes to assure the public and its stakeholders that it is still committed to the fight against corruption, and values the public’s support, co-operation and participation in refusing, resisting and reporting corruption in order to make the Zimbabwe a corrupt free nation.