By Tererai Karimakwenda
SW Radio Africa
07 July, 2014
A corruption scandal has been exposed at Zimbabwe’s tax collecting agency, where senior officials are reported to be looting a whistle-blower fund that was setup to reward those who report illegal financial activity in order to promote a culture of honesty and accountability.
According to the Financial Gazette newspaper, “highly placed sources” said the reports of senior officials “lining their pockets” by abusing the fund have “rattled” Gershem Pasi, the commissioner general at the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA).
In 2001 government adopted legislation aimed at helping to combat corruption and other illegal or underhanded activity like smuggling. The idea was to reward 10% to individuals who provide information that led to the recovery of revenue that would otherwise have been lost.
Ironically, it is senior officials at ZIMRA who have been reportedly corrupt, helping themselves to the fund through third parties to whom they provide insider information on their intended targets. The outsiders then pretend to have “stumbled” on the information themselves and claim the reward, only to share it with the ZIMRA officials.
Luke Zunga of the Global Zim Forum, an economic think tank, said: “Actually I think these guys set up the fund for their own benefit, knowing that they could work around it and tap into it. So that to the public it looks like they are enhancing honesty but behind the scenes they are the beneficiaries. It’s fraud to put in a nutshell. But you’ll find those things whenever the economy is down,” Zunga told SW Radio Africa.
The tax authority has refused to confirm or deny the reports, which first surfaced at a recent meeting of chief executives of parastatals and local authorities, according to the Fingaz. The newspaper did say that said several ZIMRA officials have been arrested countrywide, particularly at border posts where they tried to swindle government or those paying duties.