By Sukuoluhle Ndlovu
MASVINGO – Zimbabwe is losing millions of dollars annually through Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs), but the country’s anti-corruption agency says it is ill-equipped to deal with the problem and it may take years to recover assets and money lost. AFRODAD, the African Forum on Debt and Development, estimates that the southern African country has lost US$32 billion in the last two decades, and between 2009 and 2013 an estimate of US$570,75 million was lost annually.
Between the years, 2009 and 2013, Zimbabwe lost US$2.7 billion from the mining sector alone through IFFs, tax evasion, tax incentives, corruption and trade mis-invoicing, according to the debt and economic development monitoring civic organization. Africa as a whole loses at least US$50 billion annually. Zimbabwe Anti Corruption Commission (ZACC) is still to implement its Strategic Plan of 2019-2024, which it says will see a boost in investigations and recovering of assets that were lost through IFFs.
Political and economic analysts say Zimbabwe’s battle against corruption and IFFs is suffering from a weak policy framework and questionable government commitment to tackling public officials siphoning millions of dollars annually. But ZACC dismisses the criticism, saying the anti-corruption drive has taken off and the recovery of ill-gotten wealth will be reinforced with the adoption of the strategic plan strengthening the body’s structures and operational systems. “Work on the ground has not been started as of yet, in terms of investigating and recovering lost assets through IFFs since last year as we are still working on it so that we can start implementation, ”ZACC spokesperson John Makamure said in an interview.
“There is still need for it to be commissioned and hence the reason why it is taking long for investigations to begin and this is the reason why nothing as of yet has been recovered as the five year plan states,” he added.
ZACC Chairperson, Justice Loice Matanda-Moyo told journalists at a conference reviewing the Strategic Plan that her commission still needs some time to upgrade the skills and capacity of investigating and asset recovering officers such as collecting evidence, issuing restrain and freezing orders and securing mutual legal assistance. This, she said, was part of the strategic plan and would happen once they have started implementing it. Zimbabwe Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi addressing the media said ZACC needs to be fully financed to be able to carry out its mandate.
“For ZACC to be effective, it needs to be financed with enough resources and skills for them to be able to carry out the Strategic Plan and to be able to recover assets that were lost. The country has lost a lot of revenue so the resources that will be allocated by ZACC should be effectively utilized and make sure the mandate of recovery is effectively carried out and recover that has been lost through IFFs,” said Ziyambi.
At a conference on the ZACC Strategic Plan, Justice Matanda-Moyo, a former High Court Judge, said even after the implementation of the plan, it will need more time to investigate and recovery of assets as they will need to review its five-year strategic plan: “It is not possible to quickly recover the money or assets lost through illicit financial flows (IFFs) transactions that have been made in this country and the investigations into these criminal activities are complex and can take several years to accomplish.”
She added: “Illicit Financial Flows are among the greatest threats that Zimbabwe is facing. So we are still undertaking our investigations and will bring those who are found liable to justice and are being courageous in the fight. It takes years and dedication for one to be an expert in asset recovery.”
A leading opposition figure and former finance minister, Tendai Biti, said in an interview ZACC’s drive to recover assets and cash stashed abroad in illicit financial flows would not be realized as the Zimbabwe government’s commitment was highly questionable. “The country is failing to fight corruption and how will it be able to deal with IFFs, whilst right now they are doing the ‘catch-and-release-policy’,” he said in reference to the arrest and release on bail of a couple of senior government on corruption charges.
“This is a sophisticated game that ZACC cannot do as they do not have the capacity and manpower,” Biti, one of three deputy presidents of the main opposition MDC Alliacnce.“There should be a clear framework that talks about IFFs and the reparations that come with the breaching of the (legal) framework ….but we do not have it,” he added.
Tafadzwa Chikumbi, Programmes Manager at Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) said the government needs a strong legal framework and political will for its battle against illicit financial flows (IFFs).”But the problem we are facing as Zimbabwe is that there are a lot of loopholes in the fight against IFFs….,” he said in an interview. “What we see is that IFFs are happening everyday but no action is being taken, there is need for the Plan to be implemented as soon as possible,” he added.
This story was produced by BUSTOP TV. It was written as part of Wealth of Nations, a media skills development programme run by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in partnership with The African Centre for Media Excellence. More information at www.wealth-of-nations.org. The content is the sole responsibility of the author and the publisher.