Corruption at ZACC: a case of who will guard the guardians

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By Thandiwe Garusa

QUIS custodiet ipsos custodesâ (Who will guard the guards) was the satirical query posed by poet-philosopher Juvenal in Ancient Rome.

It has for centuries been generally used to describe a situation in which a person or body having power to supervise or scrutinise the actions of others, is not itself or themselves subject to supervision or scrutiny and find themselves committing the same ills they exist to obliterate.

Juvenal could never have anticipated that a day would come in 21st century Zimbabwe when a full-fledged and constitutionally assembly entity whose purpose is to fight corruption could find itself in the middle of a corruption scandal.

That is the irony of epic proportions playing out at the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC), which was last week exposed by Auditor General Mildred Chiri for failing to account for at least US$5,5 million it received over the past four years.

Iron lady, auditor general Mildred Chiri knows no sacred cows in her annual audit reports

And, to make matters worse, the commission is even sitting over the truth like a brooding hen.

It admitted Tuesday its financial books were in shambles; so much for an organisation which must be at the forefront of championing transparency.

In fact, ZACC said in a statement, its books have been in muddles for 10 years and rushed to blame legacy issues for it.

The valiant auditor general, whom not long-ago government tried to dismiss for her stinging expositions, that millions of United States dollars spent by the organisation since 2012 cannot be accounted for.

She said in her report covering the year 2020 this raises fears of misappropriation.

ZACC, Chiri said, failed to account for US$1,1 million cash payments made during the year ending 2019 and US$2 million spent for the year ending 2017.

She said the commission improperly disposed houses worth US$2,4 million, leaving a mouth-watering US$1,1 million gap which it would surely have sent its sniffer dogs has it been done elsewhere.

Millions of United States dollars given to Zacc to fight corruption cannot be accounted for, according to auditor general Mildred Chiri

In addition to that, the Chiri audit revealed there were numerous explained cash payments for things like fuel and, quite uproariously, an incomplete petty cash book with missing records.

ZACC admitted the anomalies in a statement Tuesday but chose to blame those who have occupied the positions current officials held before and sought to trash the ineptitude in the history dustbins.

“ZACC takes note of the comment raised in the auditor general Ms Mildred Chiri’s latest report stating that the commission failed to furnish her with supporting documentation for payment of goods and services and other substantial disbursements,” the commission said.

“The commission would like to state that it is currently studying the document and will issue a comprehensive statement in due course. However, ZACC acknowledges that its books for the period 2012-2019 were not in order owing to legacy issues which are now an issue of the past,” it said.

“Since its appointment in 2019, the current commission led by Justice Loyce Matanda-Moyo has worked tirelessly to enhance professionalism and transparency in its conduct and execution of its mandate,” the statement reads.

It may be, after all, that the millions of taxpayer’s money spent on trying to combat corruption, defined tautologically as cancer eating society’s moral fabric, is actually being preyed on by the very custodians, in which case one wonders who will investigate them.

Or it may as well be a case of the fox being in charge of the hen house.