Poor pay frustrates anti-corruption drive

HARARE - They are tasked with investigating million-dollar corruption cases but more often than not, the peanuts they take home leave Zimbabwe’s graft busters a vulnerable lot.

A constitutional body set up in 2010, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission was hailed as one of the fragile coalition government’s progressive reforms.

Yet, because of poor pay and appalling working conditions its investigators are forced to endure turning the body into a breeding ground for the vice it is supposed to fight.

Investigators, many of them former police officers, earn far below the poverty datum line. Out of pocket allowances for investigative trips outside the country are barely enough for them to put up at a run-down lodge and have a decent meal.

Disgruntled investigation officers say their bosses are not taking the anti-corruption drive seriously despite the macho often exhibited in public.

They accuse their bosses of “unfair labour practices” and enriching themselves, in a development likely to undermine efforts to curb escalating graft.

The 58 detectives employed by the commission claim that due to low pay and poor working conditions, the Anti-Corruption Commission board has exposed them to bribes from suspects they are supposed to investigate.

Detectives are paid monthly salaries ranging between $300 and $400.

When on out-of-town assignments, they get $50 each per day to cover accommodation, meals and other incidental expenses.

The disgruntled investigators have now petitioned Anti-Corruption Commission chairperson Denford Chirindo, warning him of dire consequences for the anti-corruption drive if the situation remains unresolved.

The letter to Chirindo was a follow-up to a list of grievances sent to the commission’s human resources commissioner, Elita Sakupwanya, earlier.

The detectives accused the commission of being “heartless” and using a “ruthless responses and brutal approach”.

“We were ignored and our plight and request was treated as empty noise,” wrote the detectives to Chirindo.

“We have since noted and observed that the conduct of the Commission as an employer is neither innocent, coincidental nor an honest perspective with regards to our welfare rights, but a ... move aimed at killing the goose that is laying the golden eggs through service of personal and selfish interests.

“As an employer note that it is an unfair labour practice to engage in such dirty tactics, characterised by pre-occupation in flattery…using employees as pawns in a game of chess for private and personal gain, creation of hostile working environment for employees (including non-provision of tools of trade) and general abandon of our welfare rights as well construction of a rumour mill,” reads the petition.

In the letter, detectives claim breach of contract in payment of salaries and other dues.

“We have been advised that we are being paid on a temporary basis by SSB (Public Service Commission) on their scales, which is being processed in the region currently of $300 per month.

 “It is with heavy hearts that we again in as many times approach your office as the employer to honour your obligations to us as employees, who continue to live in perpetual poverty when the employer is growing fatter, which only suits a feudal era,” reads the petition.

They said working conditions were a cause of “great anguish” to detectives who operate in “overcrowded and shabby conditions” at Livingstone House in Harare’s central business district while the commissioners and secretariat work from “posh” premises at the Mount Pleasant Business Park.

Chirindo acknowledged the problems affecting the commission but advised the detectives to exhaust internal channels.

“Those issues are being attended to,” Chirindo said.

“We are actually looking into them. It is an internal thing. We are working with human resources to verify the grievances. They know where their salaries come from and it is a question of going through channels,” he said.

“The commission is looking into the issues to ascertain where the problem is,” said Chirindo. - Enock Muchinjo

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