Dar es Salaam. An analysis by a local think tank Center for Strategic Litigation (CSL) has proposed “a comprehensive review” of institutions of accountability along with policy debate on the entire criminal justice value chain of corruption if Zanzibar is to succeed in its anti-corruption drive.
Titled ‘The Political Economy of Zanzibar: The Endless Struggle to Control Corruption’, the report, published today, September 14, 2022, with funding from the government of Switzerland, sketches the contemporary political economy of Zanzibar.
The analysis, based on publicly available sources and informal interviews with key informants, reviews corruption – extortion, bribery, collusion and the plunder of state resources in the semi-autonomous archipelago —through the lenses of political economy analysis and rent-seeking.
It concludes that in Zanzibar, informality overrides formal institutions and checks and balances, allowing rent-seeking to flourish at all levels of the state apparatus.
“Major investments and procurement are not subject to public oversight or technical scrutiny,” the authors noted in their 95-page analysis. “Parliament, the private media and civil society are largely ineffective in limiting or challenging the abuse of executive power.”
The institutions designed to control corruption and to oversee public procurement in the isles are also ineffective, according to the analysis.
Since he took the reign of power in November 2020, following a contested election, President Hussein Mwinyi has not been a stranger to making anti-corruption remarks, vowing to root out the malady that denies Zanzibaris a better life.
On September 8, 2022, during a State House function to swear in the new director general of Zanzibar Anti-Corruption and Economic Crime Authority (ZAECA), for instance, Dr Mwinyi called the fight against corruption “crucial” for Zanzibar’s development.
“Corruption and embezzlement of public funds are negatively affecting our political, economic and social life,” the government-owned Daily News newspaper quoted Mwinyi as saying.
“I need ZAECA to work closely with the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) office, Judiciary, and all other relevant institutions including security organs, so that we control the vices,” added Mwinyi whose father Ali Hassan Mwinyi served both as Zanzibar and Tanzania president.
But according to the CSL analysis, Zanzibar will need to do more than have its agents of state power working together for the anti-corruption war to succeed.
To begin with, the think tank proposes that the parliamentary oversight committee will require dedicated capacity including human resources, research and investigative capacity in order to play their rightful role in overseeing expenditure and public procurement.
“Both ZAECA and ZPPDA have seen the limited budget, staff capacity and insufficient technological capacity to manage and communicate critical data relevant to public procurement and anti-corruption,” the analysis pointed out.
ZPPDA stands for Zanzibar Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority.
The authors are also of the view that failure to implement the Local Government Authority Act No.7 of 2014 has limited the opportunity for Zanzibaris to effectively participate in the fight against corruption through their local governments, leveraging on their proximity.
“As Local Governments play an increasingly significant role in service delivery, public procurement, expenditure and revenue collection the need to ensure public participation in the oversight of such functions cannot be emphasised,” the analysis notes.
The authors also propose that the recommended reforms go hand in hand with digitisation of government services to minimise the risk of misuse, bribery and opacity while on the other hand significantly improving service delivery, public participation and citizen feedback generation.
The CSL’s analysis comes against the backdrop of a celebratory mood that officials within the government of Zanzibar have been wallowing themselves in thanks to their “admirable gains in the war” against corruption.
Many of these “gains” involve the sacking of heads of government parastatals over their reported involvement in corrupt practices or “underperformance.”
But according to the CSL’s analysis, anti-corruption agencies and the criminal justice system in Zanzibar are obsessed with punishing petty crimes while ignoring and failing to punish the big offenders.
“The criminal justice system punishes the mules and not the drug barons, the low-level ‘corrupt’ official but not the high,” the authors noted in their report. “Resistance to change is a major feature of the Zanzibari state.”
While others might have thought that the opposition ACT-Wazalendo party being in the government would have helped in preventing rent-seeking in the government, the authors think otherwise.
“There is little evidence that ACT-Wazalendo’s presence in the current [Government of National Unity] GNU is having an impact on governance practices, though it is serving a valuable function by keeping the peace,” the analysis concluded.