BY VENERANDA LANGA
PUBLIC Accounts Committee (PAC) chairperson Tendai Biti yesterday said the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) must be removed from being under the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), alleging that the central bank itself was a “rogue” institution which needs investigation by the unit.
Biti said this during debate in the National Assembly on the second reading stage of the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Bill.
The same issue was raised by the chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Finance, Felix Mhona, during public hearings on the Bill.
Members of the public also suggested that the FIU must be removed from the RBZ so that it becomes an independent institution.
“Two weeks ago, I presented on behalf of the PAC a report on the omissions of the RBZ. We made a recommendation that the footprints of the RBZ were too much in the economy because they are responsible for distribution of foreign currency, export requirements, subsidies and issuance of Treasury Bills, lending and borrowing,” Biti said.
“PAC recommended that section 6 of the RBZ Act should be amended so that their functions are issuance of foreign currency, management of the monetary policy statement, management of the payment system and a banker of last resort.
“The issue of housing the FIU in the RBZ is a problem because they (RBZ) are a player in corruption and they need to be investigated. So, the RBZ is a rogue institution and it cannot house the FIU to investigate its rogueness.”
Biti said, for example, the RBZ released new $5 and $2 notes which were then distributed to the parallel market.
He said the central bank tried to deny its involvement and pin two banks for the shenanigans, but the fact that there were hundreds of thousands of notes disbursed to the streets showed that the RBZ was somehow involved.
“There is a problem in that the RBZ issues banking licences and regulates, which is a contradiction. You cannot regulate and be an overseer. In other countries, there is a financial oversight unit. We need to take out the FIU from RBZ and create a big financial oversight unit and combine it with the Securities Commission so that they look at issues of money-laundering,” Biti said.
African Parliamentarians Network Against Corruption chairperson Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga said there was need for the Bill to ensure there was declaration of assets for all public officials.
“Some MPs walk into this House without ever having been to work, but five years later, you hear they own industries. They need to tell us how they got the money. Before anyone says they want to be president, they need to first declare their assets,” she said.
“We also need a Whistleblowers Act because I met someone at the airport, who said there was a lot of corruption and people from Dubai are entering with goods and getting bags of gold. He said he met many ministers doing that, but nothing is done to them.
“When I asked him if I can take him to the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission to report, he said that he could lose his job. So there is need for a Whistleblowers Act.”
Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi concurred with Misihairabwi-Mushonga, saying the Anti-Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Bill is a necessary law due to rampant corruption in the country.
“If you drive around Harare, you will not believe the wealth in this country. There is a mismatch between the kind of wealth and people’s salaries,” Ziyambi said.
“You find a clerk earning $1 000, but has three or four mansions. All that we are trying to say is explain your wealth. We need legislation to give us ammunition to fight corruption.”