Zimbabwe Exempts Firms from Procurement Scrutiny, Sparks Corruption Fears

Critics Decry President Mnangagwa’s Move as a Setback for Transparency

by Adenike Adeodun

In a controversial move that has sparked widespread concern, Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa has recently enacted General Notice 164B of 2024, which effectively exempts 21 public entities from adhering to the stringent requirements of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act. This decision not only includes several companies now under the umbrella of the Mutapa Investment Fund but also extends to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, thereby raising alarms over the potential for escalated corruption within the procurement and asset disposal sectors.

According to a report by Newsday, the Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG), a leading advocacy group in the realm of natural resource management, has expressed profound dismay at the President’s decree. According to CNRG, the lack of a clear rationale for such exemptions poses significant risks to the integrity of public procurement processes, traditionally designed to ensure fairness, transparency, and value for public money. This move, they argue, could significantly undermine public confidence in the management of the country’s resources and public assets.

The CNRG’s concerns are not unfounded. Zimbabwe’s constitution explicitly requires that public procurement be conducted transparently, fairly, and competitively to guarantee the optimal use of financial resources. However, the country’s history of procurement scandals casts a long shadow, suggesting that the implementation of these constitutional mandates has been less than effective. The exemptions granted by President Mnangagwa could potentially exacerbate this situation, removing critical oversight mechanisms and opening the door to unscrupulous practices.

Moreover, the CNRG points to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, to which Zimbabwe is a signatory, emphasizing the convention’s advocacy for transparent procurement systems as a cornerstone in the fight against corruption. The exemption of these 21 entities from the Act’s provisions not only contravenes these international obligations but also compromises the principles of openness and public scrutiny essential for preventing corruption.

In light of these developments, the CNRG is calling on the Zimbabwean government to retract the exemption and reaffirm its commitment to transparency, accountability, and sustainable development. They are also urging Parliament to take a more proactive stance by summoning the ministers responsible for this proclamation to account for its implications. As Zimbabwe stands at this critical juncture, the actions taken in response to this exemption could have far-reaching consequences for the nation’s governance, economic stability, and international reputation.

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