Soon, very soon we’ll be there

Victoria Ruzvidzo Business Focus
The complexion of Zimbabwe’s economy is set to change for the better over the next few months as deliberate strategies to rid the country of the ills that have burdened the economy for decades are implemented. Efforts to create a more investor friendly environment, initiatives to improve governance within ministries and the anti-corruption mantra are bound to yield results for this country in the medium to long term.

For too long there has largely been much talk and little action but it is evident that words are now being followed by action. This is the seriousness that the economy needs to fend off challenges while portraying the right picture that Zimbabwe means business.

Increased activity as Government works on easing business conditions and its growing sensitivity to the demands of investors,and the need to shun corruption, among other strategies, will certainly show as the year draws to a close and a new one unfolds.

This week Government made it clear that gone are the days when ministries were rewarded for inefficiency and corruption, with announcements that audit committees for each ministry will soon be in place to put an end to such “luxury”.

For years, the office of the Comptroller and Auditor-General has highlighted shortcomings in ministries, fraud, corruption, disregard of corporate governance principles, connivance and other such tendencies that have cost the Government lots of money.

But not much was being done to hold the perpetrators to account hence the same challenges were reported year in year out, depriving Government of the resources it desperately needs.

However, the chickens have now come home to roost and those caught offside will need to shape up or be shipped out. Failure to record proper accounts and flagrant disregard of procurement procedures will now be a thing of the past.

What gives us peace is the fact that this is no longer mere talk but a pilot project has already been done in the Ministry of Finance and that of Health. It is now ready to be rolled out to the rest of Government.

We noticed in the past few months that the courts have been dealing with a number of cases where Finance Ministry officials have been involved in fraud. Some of us wondered why we had such cases all of a sudden and concluded that due to challenges in the economy, temptations had become high, when infact it was the new audit committees, at pilot phase, that were helping unearth the scams.

The Comptroller and Auditor-General Ms Mildren Chiri must be smiling that finally systems will be in place to lighten her burden while those caught in the act will now face up to their actions.

We are made to understand that all along, Section 84 of the Public Finance Management Act provided for the setting up of the audit committees but this just had not happened.

But thank God, the long arm of the law always has a way of catching up. The powers that be have now seen reason in having the audit committees in place to plug leakages that have proved costly to Government.

Ministries have to be run efficiently, with resources well accounted for while governance principles have to be adhered to. This will not only safeguard resources but will induce a sense of responsibility and accountability in all ministries.

The days of doing things haphazardly are indeed gone.

Ms Chiri will need to move with speed in rolling this project out. In fact it is in her interest to do so and the earlier the better.

The audit committees will obviously ensure that any deviant behaviour is nipped in the bud without having to wait for Ms Chiri’s report which is normally published a few years behind time.

The $20 million secured from the World Bank and $2,8 million from the African Development Bank to strengthen capacity of the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s office should make it possible for the swift setting up of the audit committees.

The benefits of a more efficient system of Government will be there for all to see.

This economy is no longer the place to sweep corruption and its attendant facets under the carpet.

Of course we will not be naive to think that all cases of corruption will be dealt with but we will still celebrate that at least something is being done to discourage the vice.

Corruption accounts for 5 percent of global Gross Domestic Product or $2,63 trillion annually hence the importance of instituting policies and systems that rid Government and the entire economy of the menace.

Such initiatives also send the right message to investors that Zimbabwe is now more user-friendly, complemented by President Mugabe’s call for a more efficient investment approval process in his State of the Nation Address a few weeks ago.

Of course, the test case in terms of investment approval procedures will be the Dangote Group’s proposed deals.

The team that is in the country to lay out the deals appear to have no time to waste and will be expecting that things will get the necessary approvals timeously. We are not saying that corners should be cut but that all due processes must still be done but within reasonable time.

Such serious investors need all the attention they can get and so far Government has not fallen short. Ministers and their teams are really working hard to attend to the Dangote deals.

We will not pretend that we do not need the billions. We need the money like yesterday to oil our economic engine hence we should cut the red tape and move swiftly.

Presently the two Vice Presidents also have their hands full as they implement strategies within their respective portfolios to get the economy going. The recent appointment of two ministers to assist them means that it is clearly not business as usual.

In this economy it has always been a case of so much to do and yet so little done but the beat is changing.

This mood appears to be filtering down other facets of Government. The Minister of Labour, Mrs Prisca Mupfumira, is also not wasting time as she is exposing ghost workers and lazy bones at an amazing pace. Public servants now have to earn their salary.

Any absenteeism or dodging has no place in the new dispensation. We are told that in some offices people are now coming to work an hour or so before time and leaving hours after knock off time in case heads are counted again and they are not found in the right position.

The job losses that caught many unawares, have also inculcated a high productivity culture for those still in employment. It has really been a wake up call that the economy will certainly benefit from.

All these efforts and many more will certainly change the tide for the economy. Zimbabwe deserves a better place on the regional and international arena given its potential as an economic powerhouse.

Soon and very soon we will be there. Those still on the sidelines had better put their act together because the train is in motion and its gathering speed.

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