Looting the “Honesty Shop” – Dissecting the Auditor General’s Report

Alex Magaisa, Law Lecturer at Kent University in UK

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By Alex Magaisa 

The idea of the “Honesty Shop”

Last week, I posted a picture of an “Honesty Shop” on my social media accounts. The Honesty Shop is located at a farm in the area where I live here in England. The concept of an Honesty Shop is quite simple: a vendor sets up a stall and displays his goods for customers to view and buy, but there is no one in charge of it. A normal stall would have a stall operator, but not an Honesty Shop. There is no shopkeeper or stall operator. If a customer wants to buy some goods from the stall, he simply selects what he likes and leaves the cash in an “Honesty Box” which is located onsite.

There is also a book in which the customer can leave his name, contact details, and any comments. The vendor and the customer never meet unless the vendor happens by chance to be in the vicinity. At the end of the day, or probably at regular intervals during the day, the vendor will come and collect any paid money from the honesty box, to replenish the stock, or pack and close shop for the end of the day. The concept of the Honesty Shop is based on trust. The vendor trusts that the people who will come to the stall will be honest enough to pay for the goods they take; that they will play by the rules. For their part, the customers must be honest enough to pay for what they take even in the absence of the vendor. They must be ethical.

Both the vendor and the customer must appreciate that the concept is mutually beneficial to them. The system works for a vendor who has other important things to do. For example, this concept is common in farming communities. The core business of the farmer is to produce goods. He needs to spend most of his time on the land rather than tending to the stall. The Honesty Shop concept means the farmer can concentrate on his farming while relying on his customers to behave honourably and pay for the goods they take from his shop even if no one is watching over it.

The arrangement is also beneficial to the customers because it keeps the price of goods low. If the farmer were to employ someone to operate the stall all day, he would have to incur a cost to pay the employee a wage. This would only add to the costs of doing business. The farmer will pass this labour cost on to the customers, which will be reflected in the price of goods. The concept of the Honesty Shop dispenses with this cost, which helps to keep the prices low and more affordable. I should qualify this by saying that this works only if there is trust and everyone is prepared to play by the rules. If there is no trust and consequently, if customers take goods from the Honesty Shop without paying, the system will collapse. This is because in economic terms, at that point the costs of running the Honesty Shop would have started to outweigh the benefits. The biggest outcome is that there would be no service to the public, which means customers would have to look for an alternative.

When I shared the concept on social media the spectrum of responses was very broad and mixed. They ranged from those who were utterly surprised by the idea and did not believe it would ever succeed in their neighbourhoods in Zimbabwe. It would only work if it were backed by some “voodoo powers” that people believed in. At the other end were those who had encountered the concept in practice at some point in their lives. It is common in small boutique hotels which operate an Honesty Bar. Residents are free to take their drinks of choice and to leave payment or record what they would have taken which would be charged at the end of their stay. All this is based on trust. The boutique hotel managers trust that their customers will be honest and trustworthy in their dealings.

It was interesting to read that the concept was used by potters in Masvingo who sold their pottery at a place called Makari along the Harare-Beitbridge highway. But contributors suggested that it worked because it was backed by a supernatural defence mechanism: those who took the pottery without leaving payment suffered misfortune. I cannot verify the authenticity of these tales, but some contributors suggested that the concept was also popular in parts of Malawi. Some residents of Binga also shared testimonies that this concept was common in their area.

Personally, my first encounter with it was in Harare, nearly a decade ago, when I stayed at a small boutique lodge. I desperately wanted a drink after a long day’s work. But I had arrived late, and everything was closed including the bar.  As with farmers, such establishments prefer to keep the labour costs low so after a certain time during the night, there is virtually no one in attendance except the security personnel. I was disappointed that I could not nurse my post-work thirst.

Fortunately, there was a fellow resident who was also of the same mind. But unlike me, he had a ready solution to the problem. He had stayed there for a while and was more familiar with the system. He told me not to worry and explained that I could help myself to a drink if I wanted one. This surprised me because I did not think it was the proper thing to do. That is not the kind of thing they had taught us growing up in the village. “Don’t worry,” he said reassuringly, having observed my hesitation. “You just take what you want from the bar – beer, wine, whisky, Coca-Cola or water, anything really, and you record it in that book or leave the money in that box over there,” he told me, pointing to a small box and book located at the far end of the counter. Needless to say, the Honesty Bar solved a big problem that evening!

Ever since that time, I have always found the concept intriguing. Would it work out there in broader society? Could one set up an Honesty Shop at Mbare Musika, the main market in Harare and still have a business at the end of the day? When I asked this question last week, the responses to these questions were pessimistic. Most people thought it would not survive and they attributed poverty, greed, and corruption as the primary causes of their pessimism. Some thought it was something that could work only in places where individuals are not desperate. There was a view that poverty and desperation force people into taking goods without paying when the opportunity presents itself. However, others thought the problem was not material poverty but a poverty of morals, ethical behaviour, and trust. Their view was that material poverty should not be an excuse for ethical poverty.

The State as an Honesty Shop

However, there was a bigger purpose to my sharing of the concept of the Honesty Shop. I was pleased that a few people got it, although most concentrated on the limited issue of whether the idea could work in their neighbourhoods. The bigger purpose was that the Honesty Shop may be regarded as a metaphor for the State. In other words, in any given territory, the State is or sets up the biggest Honesty Shop in any given territory.

While the state has a legal personality, it cannot do what human beings can physically do. It is a fiction that relies on human agents to perform its functions. Therefore, while the state owns the land, minerals, buildings, vehicles, and a host of other assets, it must rely on humans to use, control, and distribute these assets. These human agents are the people who run the government. The President, his Ministers, Senior Government Officials, and civil servants are therefore the primary users of the Honesty Shop. They have access to the State’s assets and how they use them depends on trust and integrity. The State is literally at their mercy.

To use the analogy of the Honesty Shop, the State sets out a stall that has all its assets and those in government come in and pick whatever they want. These people are supposed to record their names and what they would have taken and to leave a form of payment in the state’s coffers (the Honesty Box). The relationship between the state and the people to whom it entrusts its resources ought to be based on trust. This is reflected in our constitution. For example, section 308(2) of the Constitution states that “It is the duty of every person who is responsible for the expenditure of public funds to safeguard the funds and ensure that they are spent only on legally authorized purposes and in legally authorized amounts.” Subsection 3 goes further to state that, “It is the duty of every person who has custody or control of public property to safeguard the property and ensure that it is not lost, destroyed, damaged, misapplied or misused.”

These provisions are complemented by section 196(1) which states that “Authority assigned to a public officer is a public trust”.  Other provisions prohibit ministers and public officers from placing themselves in situations that produce conflicts of interest.

The President, Government Ministers, and other public officers are like customers who have access to and use the Honesty Shop. The expectation is that they will behave honourably and in a manner that promotes public confidence. The key to this system is trust. We have already observed that without trust, the Honesty Shop would simply collapse. Likewise, without trust, the State would be looted by those with access to its assets. Cronyism exists in many countries, even in the wealthiest countries, but the impact is most felt in poorer countries. In those countries, when politicians and their associates take from the State’s Honesty Shop without paying for its goods and services, it is felt in potholed roads, a dysfunctional healthcare system, a collapsing education system, a moribund currency, high prices of goods and services, and other challenges.

The RBZ Farm Mechanization Program as an “Honesty Shop

Take the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Farm Mechanisation Scheme of 2007-08 which was exclusively revealed by the BSR in July 2020. It revealed that hundreds of politically exposed persons (PEPs) right up to the presidency but also including business executives, members of the clergy, and judges took goods from the Honesty Shop but did not pay for them. Indeed, for more than a decade, they did not even want their names to be known. They are the kind of people who would not have left their names in the register at the Honesty Shop even if they had taken some goods. It is the same problem with the notoriously corrupt Command Agriculture program, where billions of dollars were allocated to PEPs in the name of promoting agricultural production. That was another Honesty Shop that failed because beneficiaries never paid back their loans and up to now the register of beneficiaries is kept secret.

It is also the same with the bad loans which were bought by ZAMCO from commercial banks. Most of those loans had been taken by PEPs who did not pay them back. The government’s solution was to create ZAMCO, a company that bought those bad loans from the commercial banks using taxpayers’ funds. In the final analysis, the State was essentially giving cash handouts to PEPs disguised as loans from commercial banks. Once again, the PEPs had invaded the Honesty Shop, taken loans, and not only refused to pay them back but did not even leave their names in the register. To illustrate this more starkly, if a vendor opened an Honesty Shop at Munhumutapa Building or ZANU PF Headquarters, the likelihood is that it would collapse within a day. The politicians, government officials, and their associates would simply pick what they want and leave without paying or even recording their names.

The Auditor General’s Report – 2019

In the next section, I will illustrate how the Honesty Shop has been plundered using the latest report of the Auditor General, Mrs Mildred Chiri.

The AG has done a remarkable job in the past. Her reports have demonstrated the rot at the heart of the State and shown why the Honesty Shop is failing. This year’s report is a belated one from 2019. The delays have been attributed to the COVID19 pandemic. Regrettably, the regime appears to have exerted its considerable weight on the latest report.  One of the apparent weaknesses is that the report omits a lot of the names of companies and individuals that were involved in some dubious transactions with the government and its entities. Previous reports of the AG have identified such individuals and companies by name, and to that extent, the report has acted as an important naming and shaming instrument. This is important for transparency and accountability, both key constitutional values and principles. The latest report appears to have been edited so that where it used to identify a company by its name, now it simply refers to “a local company”. This obfuscates where the AG is supposed to illuminate and for that reason provides unhelpful cover to dubious characters that are fleecing public resources under the guise of commercial transactions.

Conflicts of Interest

The Public Entities Corporate Governance Act [Chapter 10:31] requires directors of state-owned entities (SOE) to declare any situation that might result in a clash of interests between the director and the SOE. The Auditor-General found that 7 of the 8 board members of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority (Zimparks) did not declare their interests as required by the law. 1 of the 7 directors was also a director of a company that had a commercial relationship with Zimparks. This company owed outstanding fees to Zimparks. None of this had been declared. Unfortunately, the AG’s Report does not name the identity of the director and the company involved. As already stated, this anonymity is one of the report’s weaknesses.

This practice of appointing persons who are conflicted is contrary to the rules of corporate governance as prescribed by law. This is not the first time it has happened. In 2016, the CEO of MetBank was appointed Chairman of POTRAZ, the telecommunications regulator even though at the time MetBank was owing a US$6,5 million debt to POTRAZ. Around the same time, Peter Chingoka who was the Chairman of MetBank was appointed as one of the directors of NetOne at a time when MetBank owed NetOne a debt of US$300,000. How do you appoint the Managing Director of a debtor company to chair the board of directors of the creditor and expect that person to look after the interests of the creditor? It is like assigning a rat to guard the village granary. The conflict of interest was so apparent that such appointments should never have been considered in the first place. If some see nothing wrong with this arrangement, it is because they have become habituated to corrupt conduct. 

Leakages – ZimParks

The leakages at SOEs take various forms. Consider the case of the former Chairman of ZIMPARKS. He was given an advance payment of US$3,500 in allowances in 2017 for services that he was supposedly going to perform the following year. However, the Board of Directors was dissolved in February 2018. ZIMPARKS did nothing to recover the money that had been paid to the former Chairman. Its response to the AG was to simply admit that this had happened but made no effort to recover the money. For his part, the former Chairman who received the advance payment made no effort to return the public funds although he would have been fully aware that he did not deserve it.

To return to the metaphor, the former Chairman had walked into the Honesty Shop called ZIMPARKS, taken goods but refused to pay for them. Although the AG’s report does not name the former Chairman, public records show that it was Tichafa Mundangepfupfu. Some people might look at this and say it was only a small amount of money, but that would be a gross mistake. Imagine 1000 directors across the public sector receiving US$3,500 which they are not entitled to and not paying it back. That would be a total of US$3,500,000 in public funds just going down the drain.

NSSA – sitting allowances for workshops

At the National Social Security Authority (NSSA), a compulsory scheme that was established to provide social security and pensions upon retirement, the AG found that there was no clear policy regarding payments to board members for attending workshops. The result was that board members were getting paid sitting allowances for attending workshops. When asked for clarity, the Board told the AG that the resolution to pay sitting allowances for attending workshops was made by the Board – a clear conflict of interest. It is akin to asking baboons to vote whether they are entitled to a share of the farmer’s crop.

NSSA’s governance problems need attention. In one case, the AG found that there was no proper public complaints register and a book on which some complaints had been recorded had pages torn off. “A complaints’ register covering January to September 2018 was not availed for audit purposes. I also noted that some pages of the complaints register covering October 2018 to December 2018 had been torn off. As a result, the Authority could not provide the number of complaints received, resolved, and outstanding as at year-end”, wrote the AG.  If it were an Honesty Shop, NSSA would be a colossal failure in this regard – it cannot even keep a register of complaints from those who visit the shop.

Diversion and Incompetence

Another usual vice in government is that money that is collected under special funds is often diverted from intended purposes to the parent ministries. The result is that the purpose for which the fund was established suffers. For example, the Disabled Persons Fund was established to promote the welfare of disabled persons so that financial resources could be used for rehabilitation, training, and business projects. However, the Ministry had taken a total of US$422,895 as an advance from the Fund. It only repaid US$241,504, leaving a balance of US$181,391 as of 24 May 2019. These diversions deprived a vulnerable group of the support that it could have received through this fund.

There is also sheer incompetence and negligence. For example, the AG found that of the US$1,175,370 that Treasury allocated to the Disabled Persons Fund, just over half of it was utilized. The fund directors did not utilize the funds and Treasury had to recall US$485,243 at the end of the year 2018. There was no justifiable reason as to why the Fund directors failed to utilize the funds to support people living with disabilities when there are so many of them living in destitution. No one at the Fund or the parent Ministry is taking responsibility for these gross omissions. They have just shrugged it off and carried on as if nothing wrong happened.

Lack of supporting documents

Just over a decade ago, the government established the Distressed and Marginalized Fund (DIMAF) which was designed to help businesses facing serious hardships. Loans were disbursed to several businesses. However, some of them did not pay back these loans. The AG found that loans were amounting to US$4,666,394 were still outstanding at the time of the audit. She was also not given copies of the loan agreements for the examination which made it difficult to verify the existence and validity of the loans.  The loan debtors disclosed included a Dr Hein Pvt Ltd owing US$428,076; Pandhari Lodges US$290,238; Mugandani Enterprises US$1,619,036; Marvo Stationery US$1,454,095; Citifoam Pvt Ltd US$752,893; Celsys Pvt Ltd US$110,091 and Global Import and Export US$11,965.

As the AG stated, in the absence of loan agreements “the debtors could be misstated or non-existent”. Anyone could have been given public funds in the name of assisting distressed companies under the DIMAF program. It would be yet another instance of a person walking out of an Honesty Shop without paying for the goods he would have taken. Two of these entities are familiar, Pandhari Lodges and Celsys, but it would be interesting to know the beneficial owners of all these companies that got DIMAF loans but never paid them back. 

MetBank once again

One bank that features regularly in the AG’s reports is MetBank. No other bank appears so often in these reports and not in a pretty way. There is always a scandal involving public funds associated with its presence. The AG’s report shows that it got entangled in the Civil Service Housing Loan Fund, a public scheme that was set up to assist civil servants to buy land, build homes or get mortgage relief. Instead of disbursing these funds to desperate civil servants, the Fund directors apparently invested in 10% Secured Convertible Debenture at MetBank for the value of US$2,229,565 in April 2015. This “investment” was made without the Treasury’s approval.  When the debt instrument matured, MetBank did not pay up. As the AG stated, “The goals and objectives of the Fund may not be achieved if financial resources earmarked for loan beneficiaries remain locked up in the bank.”

The managers of the Fund did not dispute what happened. Instead, they merely said it was “regrettable that we are in such a situation as Metbank has not yet repaid the total outstanding amount at the stipulated maturity date of the Debenture”. They claimed that the Fund had written “several letters” to MetBank “demanding the repayment of the full amount together with the interest generated during the tenure of the Debenture to no avail. The matter was raised with the RBZ Governor and was also forwarded to the Civil Division for litigation.”

This is disappointing because it falls far short of expected standards. Why would the Fund want to approach the RBZ Governor in a purely contractual matter between the Fund and MetBank? This is a liquid debt which the Fund should be claiming through the courts. As the AG stated in her evaluation of the response by management, “The response given does not address the finding as it does not justify why in the first place, the investment was made without the concurrence of Treasury.”

The AG also found that the Fund was owed debts by beneficiaries that were not being pursued. The beneficiaries were persons who had died, retired, or resigned from the civil service. “It was evident that no follow-ups were being done to recover the outstanding amounts from former beneficiaries,” wrote the AG. A Revolving Fund cannot survive where such losses are allowed by the Fund managers and no efforts are made to seek recovery.

Unfulfilled contracts and abuse of advance payments

Advance payments and unfulfilled contracts constitute the classic case of how the State’s “Honesty Shop” is looted by PEPs and their associates. This is how it happens:

A Government department or a state-owned entity (SOE) wants to buy goods or services. Instead of dealing with the vendor directly, it engages a third party to do it on its behalf. However, the third party usually does not have the money to finance the purchase so the government or the SOE makes an advance payment to the third party. Now liquid, the third party can go on to buy the goods or services. The third party is never an ordinary third party. It is usually a PEP.

The problem is that the third party either under-delivers the goods or services or at worst does not deliver anything at all. Since the third party has already been paid, he simply pockets the difference between the amount that he received from the government or the SOE and the value of the goods or services that he under-delivered. There is no legal action to recover the looted funds. This is how the third party walks away from the Honesty Shop with public funds. It is theft of public funds disguised as a commercial transaction. The current AG’s report and previous reports have revealed this pattern for many years.  Let us look at some pertinent examples:

NSSA – pensioners get nothing while elites loot

Previous AG’s reports had shown that there were serious problems with NSSA’s housing offtake agreements. The latest report found that the contract with a housing developer for 1000 houses in Harare had not been honoured. However, even though there had been a clear breach of contract, there were no efforts by management to recover funds from the performance bond. The AG also found that another contract with a property developer for 809 housing units in Chinhoyi had not been honoured as only 202 units had been built even though $US7.855 million had been paid as part payment for the project. The AG also found that titles to the 202 had not been transferred to NSSA. This particular contract was not backed by a performance bond, which was a breach of the law.

In its response, NSSA management conceded “that the Housing offtake agreements were not handled in a manner that best protects the interests of the Authority. Many of the transactions are now the subject of civil court proceedings and some are also the subject of criminal investigations. Management continues to explore ways that the Authority can recover the funds invested on these projects.” This is not good enough especially where there were managers responsible for these dubious transactions. There is no culture of taking responsibility. It’s yet another case where the privileged went into the Honesty Shop, picked what they wanted, and left without paying.

GMB – One Million Dollar Heist

For example, in respect of the Grain Marketing Board, the AG says, “The Board contracted a local company to import 10 000 metric tonnes (mt) of maize on its behalf. An advance payment of US$3 900 000 was made for 10 000mt to facilitate the imports. The company delivered 3 800mt of grain worth US$1,482,000 leaving a balance of 6 200mt.” Without information on what the “local company” is, there is no way to independently verify the beneficial owners of this company which got public funds but failed to deliver, even after the contract was amended so that it would supply soya-beans instead. It only supplied soybeans worth US$ 1 418 000. This means US$ 1 000 000 worth of soybeans were not delivered. The unnamed “local company” walked into the GMB Honesty Shop and walked away with US$1 million. How can the Honesty Shop survive such looting?

In another case, the Grain Marketing Board paid companies called Score Holdings, Aurora, and Chiripula for the supply of maize. Delivery of 2 467mt of maize remained outstanding. In 2018, the AG recommended that the GMB should recover the lost amounts. The GMB’s response now is that it is negotiating with both Score Holdings and Aurora. But prospects of recovery are extremely slim. Aurora is now said to be under liquidation. Chiripula, another party that was involved in the transaction was wound up. As the AG observed, this debt may have to be written off. But surely the beneficial owners of these companies are known? These are cases that at the very least require the attention of the anti-corruption authorities. But they have done nothing regarding cases that were flagged up in previous AG’s reports.

Digikad

Previous audit reports of the AG demonstrate that this is a pattern. It is a method by which PEPs siphon public funds. For example, the 2018 AG Report had a case where the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare contracted a company called Digikad Zimbabwe Private Limited to supply biometric cards. The Ministry borrowed $US500 000 from NSSA to pay Digikad in advance. However, by September 2018, Digikad had supplied a mere 50,000 cards leaving a balance of 200,000. Incredibly, the AG reported that despite the underperformance, it was Digikad that was suing the Ministry for specific performance of the contract. Digikad and its beneficial owners had effectively walked into the Honesty Shop, picked a wad of cash, and walked away but they were now demanding more free goods!

Still no solution with Solution Motors

In another case in December 2017, the Department of Irrigation which falls under the Agriculture Ministry entered into an agreement with a company called Solution Motors for the purchase of 10 vehicles. The contract was worth $US518,850 and the full amount was paid to Solutions Motors in advance. However, Solution Motors only delivered a fraction of the consignment, leaving a balance of $207,540 which is pocketed. The same company got another contract with the Department of Irrigation worth $958 665. Again, it was paid in advance and Solution Motors was supposed to supply plant and equipment including excavators, tipper trucks, motorized compactor, and a water bowser. When the AG conducted the audit in 2018, the plant and equipment worth $515 650 had not yet been delivered. The AG also found that there were no registration books for the equipment that had been delivered and was therefore unable to verify actual ownership.

ZETDC’s short cables

The Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) pre-paid a supplier a total of US$1,293,654 for cables in 2015. However, the supplier delivered the wrong cables which were returned. That was the end of it. ZETDC did not get a supply of the correct cables. It did not get a refund. The problem is that the AG’s report does not name this delinquent supplier. The management could only say that “…  the supplier is working with his financier to deliver the outstanding cable valued at US$1,293,654 to close the case.” This suggests that the supplier is an individual and if that is the case, how could a public entity agree to a million-dollar contract with an individual? This looks like yet another case where the individual is walking away from the Honesty Shop without paying for the goods. There are other cases where ZESA and its subsidiaries pre-paid for goods that were never delivered. There is nothing in the latest report to show what happened to those cases.

No glitter at the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company

The latest report shows that the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC), which was established in 2015 paid for goods from unnamed suppliers but those goods worth US$350,000 were never delivered. The ZCDC responded that it had “lined up meetings with these suppliers to discuss the outstanding payments and map the way forward”. This is not good enough and it’s likely another sum of public funds going down some PEPs’ pockets, again in the name of contractual arrangements.

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. But they are good enough to show how public funds are looted under the pretext of contractual arrangements. The PEPs who get the contracts simply take the money and run, knowing very well that there will be no recourse against them. It is the same millions, stolen from taxpayers that they flaunt as personal wealth. And the gullible run after them, believing them to be sophisticated businessmen.

ZINARA – technically insolvent

The Zimbabwe National Road Administration (ZINARA) joins a long list of Honesty Shops run by the government which is teetering on the brink of collapse. This is an entity that gets its funds from the public through road user charges. It is supposed to disburse these funds to local authorities, the Department of Roads, and the District Development Administration to maintain, rehabilitate and construct roads. All the tollgates on the roads around the country contribute to its coffers. But somehow, ZINARA is broke, according to the AG’s report.

After reviewing the figures, the AG wrote, “These conditions indicate that a material uncertainty exists that may cast significant doubt on the Group’s ability to continue as a going concern.” It incurred a net loss of US$70 688 881 for the year ended 31 December 2018 and its liabilities exceeded its assets by US$ 52 798 724.

GMB – Sheer incompetence and negligence

In another case, the GMB requested the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development for funding to finance the construction of 100 hardstands (these are paved surfaces). It was given US$6.5 million at the start of 2018 to construct 90 hardstands but more than a year later it had constructed just 39 hardstands. When asked what had happened, the GMB management said it had applied for funding to construct 36 hardstands only but when Treasury gave it US$6,5 million, it was more than its requirements.

One might have expected the GMB to have rejoiced and put the money to good use. It did not. But holding on to money in a hyperinflationary environment is foolish. This foolishness became apparent when GMB discovered that the money lost value when the government introduced currency changes. Money that could have been put to good use went down the drain, but not a single manager or director at the GMB took responsibility.

Public Healthcare in jeopardy

The losses at the GMB are worse when considered in light of the challenges faced in Zimbabwe’s healthcare system. The AG found that Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals cancelled a total of 1688 theatre operations during the audited year. The management stated that the principal cause of the cancellations was that there was no equipment to carry out theatre operations. Parirenyatwa lacked adequate monitors in anesthetic rooms and recovery areas. Only 8 of the 18 stations were in use. The Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and Higher Dependence Unit (HDU) did not have enough beds to accommodate patients. “Due to financial constraints to re-tool the theatres over the years, most of the equipment broke down and the hospital was unable to provide adequate theatre coverage hence cancellations of theatre cases,” the management said.

Conclusion

The Honesty Shop concept provides an interesting prism to view the State and how those who have access to it exploit its resources. Looking at the State as operating an Honesty Shop allows us to appreciate the significance of trust and why it matters so much in running affairs of the State. The concept of the Honesty Shop cannot survive unless it is anchored by trust. Likewise, trust is very important in the affairs of the State and how its assets are managed. The latest report of the AG demonstrates yet again that those in charge of the Zimbabwean State cannot pass the test of the Honesty Shop. They cannot be trusted to play by the rules.

The examples drawn from the current and previous reports of the AG show that those who use the State’s Honesty Shop tend to take goods and services without paying for them. They do not even want to leave their names in the register. Their primary interest is the plunder of resources in the Honesty Shop. It is not surprising that the country remains in dire straits. Those who are supposed to keep the Honesty Shop alive are always busy raiding and extracting from it.

Therefore, while most people who responded to my inquiry were happy to explain why, in their opinion, the concept of the Honesty Shop would not survive in their neighbourhoods, the reality is that it would not see out the day even if you located it at Munhumutapa, Parliament, or Mashonganyoka, the three buildings that house the three arms of the State.  

–Alex Magaisa is a law lecturer at Kent University in UK

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