The United States Senate has urged the World Bank to impose strict benchmarks, transparency and accountability measures on the $7 million grant that will be advanced to Zimbabwe to help the country to fight the Covid 19 imposed effects on its economy.
In a letter written to World Bank President David Malpass, the Chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations James E. Risch said the strict accountability and transparency measures should be in place to ensure that the money is used for its purpose as he accused the country’s state institutions of being corrupt and uninterested in the wellbeing of citizens.
“..On 6 May the World Bank announced plans to provide Zimbabwe with a $7 million grant for coronavirus response, with $5 million coming from the World Bank’s global financing facility trust and $2 million being diverted from the Zimbabwe Idai Response Project (ZIRP) that is helping communities recover from the devastation of Cyclone Idai, which hit eastern Zimbabwe in March 2019,”.
“..This extra ordinary crisis will require an exceptional response, but it is equally important not to lose sight of the historical behaviour 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 $7 million will be managed and implemented by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and the Dutch Catholic Organisation for Relief and Development Aid (Cordaid) but 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 $7 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 (as was the case with the Zimbabwean government’s Command Agriculture program) , that distribution of assistance is not discriminatory or manipulated for political gain or bolster the security sector and that projects are completed in a timely fashioned as planned,” the statement reads.
Risch said the results of the project can only be delivered if there is no interference from government actors and also encouraged those implementing the project to work with Independent civil society groups and community voices.
Zimbabwe already owes $1.3 Billion to the World Bank and this makes it ineligible to get loans and funding from the bank under normal circumstance. But the $7 million facility was announced after several organisations and business people including Strive Masiyiwa pleaded with the financial institution to help the country to fight the Covid 19 pandemic.
The call by the U.S to exclude state institutions from handling the money appears to be a hostile response to Zimbabwe, as it comes after a White House official, Robert O’Brien named Zimbabwe as a foreign adversary that is working against the U.S.
The development also comes after the government has been accused of facilitating the payment of inflated PPE material from Drax International, a company linked to President Mnangagwa’s bodyguard without going through a competitive bidding process. This could have raised concerns from the U.S senate over the government’s ability to handle the $7 million funds in a transparent manner.