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Police in Zimbabwe should declare assets
Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA)
January 26, 2012

Zimbabwe signed and rectified the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) as part of its commitment to effective prevention of corruption. The country also signed the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption and Related Offences (AU anti-corruption convention). However, as a result of inadequate anti-corruption legal framework and a culture of corruption, efforts to deal with corruption' achieve nothing in Zimbabwe. For example, in 2011 Zimbabwe ranked 154 out of 182 countries of the world in terms of corruption rate. In fact, there have been a countless number of reports on corruption cases involving public officials, civil servants or politicians since the 1980s to date. Abuses of public power, bribery and embezzlement of public funds have beyond any reservations been apparent. Therefore, it is expected of the government to formulate and implement mechanisms that will deal with such levels of institutionalized corruption to assist the economy, given the country's ranking and economic quagmire.

However, the police force in Zimbabwe has been found to be the worst corrupt institution in the country, a point which was recently cemented by the Transparency International-Zimbabwe study. Institutions such as the police force, however, give character to the government and the public sector in general. Therefore, the police should always strive to maintain their integrity and that of the public sector. If corruption is to be fought in Zimbabwe it should start with the police, for the simple reason that they are the major culprits and secondly they are the ones expected to root out corruption. Consequently, measures should be put in place to deal with corruption within the police force and I propose asset declaration as a starting point.

Declaration of assets by police is a means through which police officers are required to disclose their income, wealth and liabilities in order to document increases or decreases of their assets. This is because it obliges police officers to make full, regular and public disclosures of their assets. This means it does not only promise to offer accountability and transparency in the force and improved service provision but can also enhance the integrity in the public sector. However, in order for it to be effective in achieving suppression of corruption within the police in Zimbabwe, it ought to be supported and backed by legal and institutional means. Actually, Zimbabwe should learn from the AU anti-corruption convention that the country is a signatory to, which makes it mandatory for its signatories to require declaration of assets by designated public officials.

Therefore, by mandating assets declaration by all the police officers and their families, the Zimbabwean government will not only be deterring the police from corruption but it will be keeping track on their financial activities. For example, in an unexplainable manner many police officers in Zimbabwe have acquired riches beyond what their remuneration can offer and it is known that police in Zimbabwe take bribes from citizens to enrich themselves. Zimbabweans have a challenge of having to pay bribes to obtain almost all services provided by the government institutions, the police force included. Therefore, monitoring the wealth of the police would be of assistance to deal with corruption. The police should declare their assets when they come into office, while in office and when leaving office or when being promoted and this ought to apply to police officers of all ranks in the country. With the level of corruption in the police force, the government should emulate the Indian government that recently directed police officers in India to declare assets and of their family members to curb corruption within the police service. The Indian government did this through its Public Servants Declaration of Assets and other Provisions Act of 1983 which stipulate that.

In Ghana, there is the Public Office Holders (Declaration of Assets and Disqualification) Act that functions as a tool to prevent corruption. Such legislations also exist in Zimbabwe's neighbouring countries such as South Africa and Botswana. As an example, South Africa has implemented conflict of interest codes requiring disclosure of financial interests by public officials. Elected officials and senior managers in the civil service and their spouses, publicly disclose all their financial interests. These include shares and interests in companies, land and property owned, paid outside employment, directorships and partnerships. The situation in Zimbabwe's police force needs the top officials like Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri to disclose their financial interests in terms of shares, land and property to avoid conflict of interest in their occupation of public offices. Such measures if applied to the police have a preventive function, as they can help anticipate potential conflicts of interest before misconduct occurs and have an investigative function also, as they provide information that may help uncover misconduct and illicit enrichment after it takes place.

For that reason, a legal framework to mandate the police and other public office holders should be formulated and implemented. It should be understood that a credible asset disclosure initiative must clearly establish a number of important elements of the process. This is because while asset declaration laws can be of importance in stemming abuses of power and looting of public resources, their impact can be hampered by shortcomings of the regulatory framework just as seen in Zimbabwe's anti-corruption laws and institutions. Flaws in legislations that are likely to threaten the effectiveness of asset disclosure as a tool against corruption may include the lack of clarity about what assets, liabilities and interests public officials are to disclose, the absence of a legal requirement for the verification of asset declarations the lack of effective prohibitions and clarity over the prosecution of offences and the lack of public access to officials' asset declarations. This therefore should be considered during the formulation process of legislation to do with assets declaration by police officers.

However, for corruption to be rooted out in Zimbabwe there is need for not only the legislations and institutions to be set up. There is also need for political will to be present to make sure the legislations are formulated and implemented, and should apply to every public official from the highest level in order to deal with the effects of the human factor. Most of the challenges Zimbabwe faces today are not necessarily as a result of bad policies or lack of policies but are a consequence of human agents that deliberately twist the laws to suit themselves. Hence, mechanism should be put in place to avoid the effects of the human factor. It is important to prevent corruption which is an impediment to development and in any case, a culture of corruption is unhealthy for the economic growth.

In terms of effectiveness of the statutes made on assets declaration, a study done by Transparency International in 2006, seeking to establish how effective officials' asset declaration laws are in reducing corruption established that countries which had asset declaration by public officials for a longer time had lower levels of corruption than other countries. The study also found out that perceived levels of corruption were lower in countries whose declaration laws permitted prosecution of the offending officials.

Although, three years have passed since the formation of the inclusive government in Zimbabwe there is still lack of a clear framework to fight corruption at various levels of governance in the country. A clear legal and policy framework for eradication of corruption is one deliverable which is fundamental in this transitional phase, if Zimbabwe is to return to normalcy. Besides, closing leaks at various government agencies, thereby increasing the financial reserves of the country, the framework shall also ensure that services are provided in an effective and transparent manner.

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