Corruption Allegations invite US Senate into Zimbabwe’s World Bank Covid-19 Assistance Package
The United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations has urged the World Bank to impose strict measures on Covid-19 aid to Zimbabwe citing pervasive corruption and impunity in the country, as well as the total disregard by the government of the well-being of its citizens.
In a letter to David Malpass, President of the World Bank, a copy of which was also sent to Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, Idaho Senator and Chairman of the Committee, James Risch said there was need for significant reform of most state institutions in Zimbabwe which were riddled by corrupt activities.
"I write today with respect to World Bank support to Zimbabwe for Coronavirus response, and to urge the Bank to attach strict accountability and transparency measures to that program," said Risch.
Senator James Risch, Chairman of US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
He explained that three African countries — Eritrea, Sudan and Zimbabwe were in arrears to the World Bank Group, and as such were not eligible for traditional financing through the International Development Association.
In early May, however, the World Bank announced plans to provide Zimbabwe with a USD7 million grant for Coronavirus response. About USD5 million was coming from the World Bank’s global financing facility trust and USD2 million being diverted from the Zimbabwe Idai Response Project (ZIRP).
The ZIRP project’s goal is to assist communities recover from the devastation of Cyclone Wei which hit eastern Zimbabwe in March 2019.
While acknowledging that Zimbabwe deserved support to contain the Covid-19 pandemic and cushion the economic fallout from the scourge of the rampant virus, Senator Risch said it was equally important "not to lose sight of the historical behavior of countries like Zimbabwe where the government has used, and continues to use, state resources and international aid to suppress its population and enrich the country’s ruling elite”.
"I was relieved to hear that the USD7 million grant for Zimbabwe will be managed and implemented by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and the Dutch Catholic Organization for Relief raid Development Aid (CORCLAID)," the Senator wrote.
He insisted that concerns remain that the funding this grant provides for desperately needed response initiatives will fall into the wrong hands, directly or indirectly, despite the best intentions of the implementing partners.
"It is for this reason that I urge the World Bank to impose very strict benchmarks and transparency and accountability measures on the USD7 million grant and any future program for Zimbabwe to ensure that procurement processes are fair and transparent; that contracts for goods and services are not awarded to Zimbabwean companies under U.S. sanctions or known to engage in corrupt practices," the Senator outlined.
The Lawmaker said there was also need, to ensure that distribution of assistance was not discriminatory or manipulated for political gain or to bolster the security sector; and that projects are completed in a timely fashion as planned. This, he emphasized, was to both guarantee accountability by the implementers to deliver results and eliminate any forms of interference by government actors.
His concerns come in the wake of recent reports of a USD1million tender scam involving Covid-19 supplies in Zimbabwe.
The first family was sucked into this ongoing saga in which two foreign companies linked to some political heavy weights, Jaji and Drax International, allegedly used their influence to secure tenders and charged questionable prices for goods meant for Covid-19 relief.
Several documents were leaked into the public domain showing gross inconsistencies and over pricing. On one of the invoices, an N95 mask which costs around USD2 was billed for USD28.
In reaction, the Ruling Party’s Acting Spokesperson, Patrick Chinamasa on Thursday told the media that the allegations against members of the First Family were false and distanced them from the murky deals. Chinamasa warned journalists who were leaking the documents.
"We warn the public and those writing lies to stop," he said.