US wants screws tightened on Zimbabwe

United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairperson, Jim Risch
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THE United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairperson, Jim Risch, has called for strict accountability and transparency measures for the US$7 million grant extended to Zimbabwe by the World Bank (WB) to aid in the fight against coronavirus (Covid-19) recently.

This comes as the US recently listed Zimbabwe as one of its foreign adversaries fuelling protests in the country after a white policeman allegedly killed an African-American George Floyd.

Zimbabwe responded by summoning US ambassador to Zimbabwe Brian Nichols and protested over the matter.

In a letter to the WB, Risch said there was need for the bank to attach strict accountability and transparency measures to the funding given the need for significant reforms of most State institutions in Zimbabwe, “pervasive corruption and impunity”.

“I was relieved to hear that the US$7 million grant … 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 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 WB to impose very strict benchmarks and transparency and accountability measures on the US$7 million grant and any future programme for Zimbabwe to ensure that procurement processes are fair and transparent; that contracts for goods and services are not awarded to Zimbabwean companies under US sanctions or known to engage in corrupt practices, as was the case with the Zimbabwean government’s Command Agriculture programme, that distribution of assistance is not discriminatory or manipulated for political gain or to bolster the security sector; and that projects are completed in a timely fashion as planned.

“This is to both ensure accountability by the implementers to deliver results and eliminate any forms of interference by government actors,” Risch wrote.

Risch further expressed concern over grant funds he claimed were allegedly redirected from Cyclone Idai response programme.

“Areas affected by Cyclone Idai, including Mutare and Chimanimani, still suffer total devastation and significant need.

“We must continue to support those communities as they rebuild, and it is my hope that the redirected funds will continue to support communities affected by the cyclone.

“In fact, the devastating conditions in which communities affected by Cyclone Idai live make them all the more vulnerable to coronavirus infection, acute food insecurity, and displacement,” Risch said.

Source – dailynews