By Anna Chibamu
PARLIAMENT’S mines committee chair, Edmond Mkaratigwa has bemoaned the policy of non-disclosure in government loans, contracts and other agreements with outsiders saying this disarmed Zimbabwe and SADC parliaments’ mandates to exercise oversight on the executive.
The Zanu PF Shurugwi South MP was speaking at a SADC Regional Learning Conference on Mining, Energy and Infrastructure Contracts on Friday.
Mkaratigwa said it was sad to note that parliaments were being engaged when it was too late to reverse often shoddy deals and this has sometimes led to desperate governments exposed to predatory investors.
“Parliaments have however been involved in issues of national contracts at a later stage and usually where they would have found fault through audit reports after the damage would have been caused already.
“That is why there is need for us to re-think, especially parliaments in the way in which we do business.
“It is our view that non-disclosure agreements to a certain extent impede our oversight role as parliamentarians.
“Some of these resources are non-renewable and we are walking an edge where every miss is costly to us and our future generation as African parliamentarians. We need to reassert our role as parliamentarians,” said Mkaratigwa.
He added that the main evil threatening sustainable development in Zimbabwe and the region at large were the increasing poverty levels, mainly as a result of endemic corruption caused by those in higher offices, where there is unnecessary formalism in institutions and cronyism in allocation of national resources.
The two-day conference was being hosted by the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) with support from Oxfam and participants came from all SADC countries including Oxfam Australia and Uganda.
In a statement, several concerns were raised by ZELA regarding contracts or loan agreements signed by government with private investors or international credit institutions.
“Many of the contracts, loan agreements or government guarantees have not been subjected to intensive scrutiny, parliamentary oversight and in most cases are not publicly available and accessible. This is despite the trending of global concepts such as open contracting and contract transparency,” said ZELA’s deputy director Shamiso Mtisi.
Oxfam Southern Africa Regional Extractives Advisor, Titus Gwemende said, “State institutions, civil society and legislators in the region often lack capacity to effectively negotiate, monitor and review the awarding of implementation of contracts in the development of oil, gas, mining, energy or related infrastructural projects.”
Gwemende warned that such state of affairs opens the window for corrupt individuals and organised syndicates of state or non-state actors, including investors and international financial institutions to continue bleeding national economies and consign sovereign states into debt traps.