Parastatal reforms long overdue

by Ashely Kondo

For a long period of time, Zimbabwe’s State enterprises, also known as Parastatals, had become a burden to the nation as they had to survive on taxpayers’ money without generating any income of their own.

In essence, and by design, some Parastatals generate income, due to the nature of their operations.

Others mandated to assist Government in the implementation of developmental programs have their operations funded through periodic grants from Government.

On a yearly basis, the Auditor General (AG), Mildred Chari, produces Annual Financial Audited Reports for various public institutions, including Government Ministries and Departments, Councils and Parastatals.

Over the past couple of years, the AG has continued to expose the rot that had become embedded in a number of parastatals.

These parastatals either under-performed or did not perform favourably at all on the markets hence they continued to incur perennial losses and bled the fiscus, while hampering economic progress.

Some of the illicit underhand dealings that have been unearthed in most Parastatals are largely premised on mismanagement and abuse of finances.

For instance most parastatals have been found wanting for; purchasing of goods and services without going to the State Procurement Board (SPB); failure to submit their accounts to the AG’s office for audit and lack of proper accountability measures such as assets registers, among others.    

It may be recalled that in the 1980s and early ’90s, parastatals contributed up to 40 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), but as at 2017, their annual contribution was estimated at below 10 percent.

Parliament’s Public Accounts committee has also produced damning reports of mismanagement of funds by managers of parastatals and councils.

These shortcomings resulted in massive leakages which saw individuals at the helm of power fattening their pockets at the expense of the State entities’ purpose.

Over time, the AG has continued to proffer recommendations aimed at correcting these and other anomalies as noted by her office.

However, little to no progress was made to rectify and bring the issue to finality under the old dispensation, as no arrests or prosecution of personalities implicated in the pilferage were made.

In addition, there have not been any efforts to recover the revenue that was lost due to corruption by officials.

However, last week, State Enterprises Restructuring Agency (SERA) Director, Edgar Nyoni, announced that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration had set a 2019 deadline for the reformation of parastatals, including restructuring and merging of some of the State enterprises. 

According to Nyoni, Zimbabwe anticipates to complete the restructuring of 107 State-owned enterprises by end of 2019.

The exercise is expected to witness the privatisation of 16 entities and merging of 13 parastatals, while two others will be liquidated.

The exercise which has since started would be implemented in various stages and will see NetOne, TelOne, POSB and IDBZ and Agribank being partially privatised along with subsidiaries of IDC including Zimglass, Allied insurance and Devin Engineering among others.

Efforts to bring finality to the issue of non-performing parastatals comes as the Second Republic is making frantic efforts to commit the country’s ailing economy on a recovery path.

Reformation of State enterprises would result in the restoration of sanity in the said public institutions through plugging of fiscal leakages and complement other raft measures by Government to revive the economy.   

It comes at a time Government is strengthening its systems of administering public funds to minimise theft and pilferage through the fiscal and monetary reforms.

The restructuring and reform agenda for parastatals is also testimony that the Second Republic led by President Mnangagwa does not condone theft or mismanagement of public funds.

To further amplify its commitment to fighting corruption in the management of public funds, Government has up-scaled arrests and trials of those fingered in illicit deals, with the most recent being the arrest of ZESA senior management.

Severe punishment or sentence for those found guilty would deter would-be perpetrators of corruption and abuse of office.