HARARE, October 18 (The Source) – Zimbabwe’s high levels of corruption threaten to break the fragile economy, the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) has said, amid revelations that whistleblowers averted the potential loss of $23 million this year alone in graft dealings by the revenue agency’s officials.
In a rare admission by a high-ranking official of a state body, Zimra chairperson Willia Bonyongwe said a forensic audit into the tax collection agency had unearthed endemic corruption.
She added that this reflected unsustainably high levels of graft across the economy.
“Often it has been said the economy is resilient but I contend that it can no longer withstand the current levels of corruption,” said Bonyongwe in her revenue report for the third quarter of the year to September.
The southern African country is losing at least $1 billion annually to the vice, with public officials, police and local government officials among the worst offenders, according to a recent report by watchdog Transparency International.
Zimbabwe has also fared dismally in a major global corruption index, and ranked at 150 out of 168 countries, according to results of a survey published by TI early this year.
Bonyongwe said anti-corruption hotlines, which Zimra introduced in May this year, have been useful in exposing graft within its ranks and the agency plans to report publicly on the cases received.
“The anti-corruption hotline has been a source of valuable information and it unearthed several cases of corruption that yielded potential revenue of more than $23 million,” said Bonyongwe.
A forensic audit of the agency by HLB Zimbabwe Chartered Accountants contains various adverse and material observations, she added.
These include corrupt practices, abuse of office and fraud and theft by some Zimra executives, violations of the Zimbabwe Revenue Act, as well as the Customs and Excise Act and the Procurement Ac.
The agency also had poor corporate governance practices and weak internal control systems; systemic violation of procurement procedures and abuse of the whistle blower facility, among others.
“The Board has studied the report and has deliberated on it. Appropriate measures in accordance with the Zimbabwe Revenue Act, the Zimra Code of Conduct, the Labour Laws of Zimbabwe and the Criminal Code will be taken in the coming weeks following proper due process,” said Bonyongwe.
She said many who have cut deals with Zimra officers have had to pay the original amounts plus penalties and interest.
“We have also dismissed a number of officers on account of corruption. It is a painful experience when the system catches up with perpetrators of corruption,” she said.
In May, the Zimra board suspended commissioner general Gershem Pasi and five senior directors over alleged improprieties in vehicle importation by some officials.