HARARE – Zimbabwe has been ranked the 12th most corrupt country in the world and 11th in Africa in the latest rankings released by Transparency International this week.
The country was ranked the 18th most corrupt globally in 2015 and eight in Africa.
The latest findings show that the country — led by President Robert Mugabe since gaining independence from Britain in 1980 — is losing the fight against corruption, which has condemned Zimbabwe to be one of the poorest countries on earth.
Transparency International chairman José Ugaz, said when traditional politicians fail to tackle corruption, people grow cynical.
“In too many countries, people are deprived of their most basic needs and go to bed hungry every night because of corruption, while the powerful and corrupt enjoy lavish lifestyles with impunity,” he said.
In a list compiled and released annually by the organisation, Zimbabwe is now listed with a very low Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) Score of 22 in a possible range of index range of 0 (representing highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).
The CPI scores and ranks countries based on how corrupt a country’s public sector is perceived to be. It is a composite index, a combination of surveys and assessments of corruption, collected by a variety of reputable institutions. The CPI is the most widely used indicator of corruption worldwide.
According to Transparency International, the score is based on perceptions as corruption comprises illegal activities, which are deliberately hidden and only come to light through scandals, investigations or prosecutions, therefore limiting the meaningful ways to assess absolute levels of corruption in countries or territories on the basis of hard data.
Interestingly, Zimbabwe scored worse than countries generally perceived to be more corrupt on the continent such as Nigeria — which has an index score of 28 and is ranked 19th most corrupt country in the world — and Kenya — 26 CPI and 16th most corrupt globally.
The only African countries reported to have more corruption than Zimbabwe in this year’s report include Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Angola, Libya, Eritrea, and Guinea-Bissau, all countries that have faced civil unrest, wars or conflict of some kind in the last 15 years.
Data gathered from Transparency International shows that Zimbabwe is losing at least $1 billion annually to corruption, with police and local government officials among the worst offenders.
But critics say the government is not committed to fighting corruption, apart from Mugabe’s half-hearted rhetoric against the scourge.
The increasingly frail nonagenarian leader has in the past admitted that even his Cabinet ministers are corrupt but rarely takes action against influential people implicated in serious graft cases.
The creation of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) in 2011 was welcomed by citizens who hoped the watchdog would curb graft, especially in the public offices but the organisation has been starved of funding by the government.
Zimbabwe’s auditor-general also routinely issues adverse reports on abuse of public sector funds, but these have gone largely ignored with no discernible action taken against offending officials.
Last year, the auditor-general found 22 ministries, out of a total 26, to have abused funds as well as having flouted procurement procedures and governance rules.
Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) chairperson Willia Bonyongwe said her organisation was working against the clock to reduce corruption within its ranks as part of strategies to improve tax collection and boost the country’s depleting coffers.
“The Zimra board has zero tolerance on corruption and we make no apologies for it because it is wicked for someone to get revenue destined for government and not meet the government’s obligations,” she said.
Bonyongwe said it was crucial for all arms of government to step up efforts to crack down on corruption and punish poor decision-making that has cost large State-run conglomerates millions of dollars in losses in recent years.
“Eradicating corruption at Zimra will impact positively on the performance of the economy. So, we need to walk the talk, people are waiting for people to lose the gains of corruption through appropriate penalties and to see some people go to jail,” she said.
“It is heartening that the Judiciary has recognised and is also having an anti-corruption campaign to clean the system. It gives us hope,” she added.