Cabinet ministers must declare their assets now

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President Emmerson Mnangagwa should urge his cabinet ministers, deputy ministers and senior government officials to declare assets and their business interests if he is to fight corruption in Zimbabwe.

This comes on the backdrop of reports that Energy Minister Jorum Gumbo opined that his personal company was given tenders by Zimbabwe National Road Administration (ZINARA) and other government entities.

Public owned but state operated media reported that Gumbo said his company won the tender competitively and the same company was also supplying other government departments.

Asked if there was no conflict of interest in having his company supplying material to a line state enterprise under his ministry, Gumbo said:

“I have a company called JMCD. It is our company and the directors are myself and my wife. It is a sewing company. It is supplying the army, Zanu-PF, the Ministry of Health (and Child Care) and many other companies. It won these tenders. It has got nothing to do with me as an individual,” reported the Herald.

In March 2018, state operated media reported that Mnangagwa had set a deadline for government ministers to declare assets but government sources say that ministers have not complied.

“It is understood the Office of the President and Cabinet is now cross-checking declarations against actual assets on the ground,” the paper reported.

However, government sources said most ministers have not declared their assets.

Declaration of assets by public officials is crucial in combating corruption. According to the World Bank, asset declarations are “a powerful tool” in preventing corruption and detecting illicit enrichment and conflict of interest.”

A 2016 WB report (“Asset declarations: A threat to privacy or a powerful anti-corruption tool?”) says over 150 countries have asset disclosure requirements for public officials.

The report says curbing corruption and exposing unexplained wealth “are serious and legitimate public interests”.

The declaration of assets document was supposed to contain details of all immovable property owned and those in which they have interests.

Chief secretary Misheck Sibanda was also reported as having said that government officials had to include any item of movable property exceeding $100 00 in value owned or leased by the individual.

Officials had to declare businesses which they have an interest in and which they currently run or play a part in.