EDITORIAL COMMENT: Lifestyle audit must cascade down to public officers

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Community leaders at all levels should play a leading role in fighting corruption if war against graft is to be won. We therefore want to commend Zimbabwe’s legislators for putting their heads on the block by approving lifestyle audits for themselves and Government Ministers.

Following the approval, MPs including ministers are now compelled to declare their assets in line with Constitutional provisions. The new Constitution, in Section 198, states that an Act of Parliament must provide measures to enforce provisions requiring public officers to make regular disclosures of their assets.

According to the Clerk of Parliament, Mr Kennedy Chokuda, the Standing Rules and Orders Committee (SROC) has approved the asset declaration register and the code of conduct for MPs.

He said Parliament was now planning a feedback workshop for MPs where the contents of the register and its implications will be explained so that when they sign it, they know its purpose. It is now incumbent upon MPs to declare their assets and those who fail to do so will be penalised.

The declaration of assets is in the interest of transparency and accountability. According to the register, MPs must declare their assets including land inside and outside Zimbabwe, buildings, movable and financial assets.

It is our hope that the lifestyle audit will cascade to all public officers as is required by the Constitution. What is encouraging is that public institutions such as the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority are already carrying out lifestyle audits of their employees as part of measures to fight corruption.

According to Zimra the audits are carried out on a regular and continuous basis in order to identify any cases of unjust enrichment and corruption.

The MPs’ assets register should therefore be used as a tool to monitor the legislators’ unjust enrichment and corruption. There have been allegations of corruption involving MPs and ministers and now that Government is empowered with the tools to fight corruption such as the assets registers, it should be able to act decisively against any public officer benefiting from ill-gotten wealth.

There should also be mechanisms to check on MPs or ministers’ bank accounts, mobile money transfers and constant checks with the Deeds Office for new acquisition of properties. This, as we have already stated, should not be limited to MPs and ministers but should apply to all public officers who are paid from the public purse.

We have said it before that those that have chosen to occupy public offices should be prepared to be put under the scrutiny of the public eye all the time.

Many executives that have been appointed to run state enterprises have become filthy rich overnight and are mainly to blame for the poor performance of these enterprises. Government has dismissed many of these but in most cases the corrective action is taken too late.

It is against this background that we call upon Government to move with speed to ensure lifestyle audits are carried out regularly for all public officers. It is a fact that politicians and executives of public enterprises are building mansions that cost millions of dollars and in most cases using ill-gotten wealth.

Lifestyle audits should therefore put a stop to this as any unjust enrichment can be detected quickly.

Those who work for state enterprises should be men and women of integrity whose conduct both at work and away is beyond reproach. It is such men and women who should remain when all the bad apples have been weeded out by several measures put in place by Government to curb corruption.

Article Source: The Chronicle