By Robert Tapfumaneyi
THE World Bank, which recently gave Zimbabwe a US$7 million grant to fight the spread of Covid-19, should attach stringent monitoring conditions to it, the United States Committee on Foreign Affairs has said.
The US government fears, if left to its devices, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration is going to squander the funds, given its corrupt history.
The demands were made by James Risch, who chairs the Committee on Foreign Affairs, on Friday.
Risch said there was “pervasive corruption and impunity” in Zimbabwe.
“I write today with respect to World Bank support to Zimbabwe for coronavirus response, and to urge the Bank to attach strict accountability and transparency measures to that programme,” he said.
“These are important given the need for significant reform of most institutions in Zimbabwe, pervasive corruption and impunity, and the demonstrated disinterest by the Government of Zimbabwe in the well-being of its citizens.”
Risch’s demands come at a time Mnangagwa’s government is in the eye of the storm after the president’s son, Collins, bodyguard Valdano Brown, and Collins’ business partner Delish Nguwaya were implicated in corruption involving a lucrative US$1 million procurement deal of Covid-19 personal protective equipment.
“It is equally important not to lose sight of the historical behaviour of countries like Zimbabwe where the government has used, and continues to use, State resources and international aid to suppress its population and enrich the country’s ruling elite,” Risch said.
“I was relieved to hear that the $7 million grant for Zimbabwe will be managed and implemented by the United Nations Office for Projects Services (UNOPS) and the Dutch Catholic Organisation for Relief and Development Aid (Cordaid).”
However, Risch said concerns remained that the grant would not fall into wrong hands directly or indirectly.
“But concerns remain that the funding this grant provides desperately-needed response initiatives will not fall into wrong hands directly or indirectly, despite the best intentions of the implementing partners.
“It is, for this reason, I urge the World Bank to impose very strict benchmarks and transparency and accountability measures on the $7 million grant and future programme for Zimbabwe to ensure that processes are fair and transparent, that contracts for goods and services are not awarded to Zimbabwean companies under US sanctions or known to engage in corrupt practices (as was the case with the Zimbabwean government’s Command Agriculture programme) that distribution of assistance is not discriminatory or manipulated for political gain or to bolster the security sector and that projects are completed in a timely fashion as planned.”
Risch said he was also worried the funds meant for the victims of 2019 tropical storm, Cyclone Idai had been redirected to the fight against Covid-19 virus, leaving thousands of vulnerable communities without aid.
“I am concerned that some of the grant funds were redirected from ZIRP’s Cyclone Idai response. Areas affected by Cyclone Idai, including Mutare and Chimanimani, still suffer total devastation and significant need,” he said.
“We must continue to support those communities as they rebuild, and it is my hope that the redirected funds will continue to support those communities affected by the cyclone.
“In fact, the devastating conditions in which communities affected by Cyclone Idai live to make them all more vulnerable to coronavirus infection, acute food insecurity, and displacement.”
While Zimbabwe received US$7 million from the World Bank, Mozambique got US$309 and Kenya US$739 from the same fund due to transparency and accountability by their governments in handling donor funds.