PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has given the green light for law enforcement agencies to arrest senior State and public officials who engage in corrupt activities, with the courts able to jail them for up to five years upon conviction. He has also empowered permanent secretaries of ministries to fully oversee financial management of public entities and statutory funds.
According to a Government Gazette published last Friday, Government officials and bosses at public entities will be jailed for up to five years if convicted of accepting monetary or other benefits “inconsistent with discharge of duty”, such as tokens of appreciation, travel, fuel, holiday, management committee and trustee allowances.
The Government Gazette said President Mugabe had signed into law the Public Finance Management Amendment Act (Chapter 22:19) which contains the new provisions. The amendment to Section 51A of the principal Act says, “The accounting authority and every member or employee of a public entity, and the accounting officer and every member of the civil service employed in an appropriate ministry responsible for that entity, shall (not)…
“(2)(a) act in a manner or receive any monetary or other benefit that compromises the supervisory or regulatory role of the appropriate ministry or infringes on the autonomy of the public entity.”
It is an offence for ministry officials to accept “(2)(b)(iii) or receive any monetary or other benefit inconsistent with discharge of the appropriate ministry’s supervisory or regulatory role including (but not limited to) any payment or benefit in the way of or in guise of – management committee allowances; or trustee or trustee representative allowances; or travel allowances, fuel coupons or holiday allowances”.
According to the Act, any person who wilfully or with gross negligence contravenes the regulations “(4) shall be guilty of an offence and liable upon conviction to a fine not exceeding level ten or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years or to both such fine and such imprisonment”.
The Act empowers permanent secretaries to recommend to ministers to either approve or reject recurrent capital budgets of public entities. The amendment to Section 10 of the principal Act says, “(4) Every accounting officer with regard to public entities and statutory funds for which his or her ministry is responsible shall –
“(a) ensure that each such public entity or statutory fund has systems in place for planning, allocating, budgeting and reporting the use of public resources and that public resources are safeguarded against loss; …
“(c) have power to call upon any accounting authority of each such entity (public entity) or (statutory) fund to provide an explanation on an issues affecting the use of public resources.”
Permanent secretaries are empowered to order investigations into the conduct of a public entity or statutory fund. In recent weeks, several ministers and senior Government officials have been accused of using their positions to abuse funds from departments, companies and other entities falling under their portfolios.