The Election Resource Centre (ERC) has reiterated its commitment to upholding sound financial accountability following media reports over the last week that raised concerns around issues of financial accountability based on the termination of a cooperative agreement between the organisation and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
USAID terminated the cooperative agreement citing noncompliance whilst advising that its investigations and report were not yet complete. Before the termination of the agreement, ERC argues that it had not been availed the opportunity to be heard.
“Sound financial accountability has been the basis of the ERC receiving support for its work towards a Zimbabwe with transparent, credible and inclusive democratic and electoral processes, not only from USAID but other developmental partners as well over the past 8 years. Although cooperative agreements with our partners remain a matter between them and us, in the interest of transparency and public accountability, we place it on record that during the duration of all our agreements with development partners since 2010, consistent annual financial audits commissioned by the partners and carried out by internationally recognised auditors in terms of our internal policies and agreements with partners have been conducted.
“In addition, monthly and quarterly financial reviews by the partners themselves have also been conducted and none of these have ever raised any compliance issues or, as now suggested in some quarters, financial improprieties. Furthermore, before any agreement was signed, the ERC was subjected to rigorous pre-award assessments by all its partners to fully test its financial systems,” the ERC Board said in a statement.
The independent electoral body insisted that the values of transparency and accountability were essential to the its operations. In that regard, the organisation said it does not condone any misconduct or financial impropriety of whatever nature.
The board said once furnished with a report with conclusive findings based on evidence by USAID, it would take appropriate action in keeping with its internal policies and procedures.
The ERC has officially responded to the termination of the cooperative agreement with USAID by requesting the partner to avail the report of its findings based on evidence. It is awaiting USAID’s response.
The board said the termination of the agreement by USAID comes at a crucial time in ERC programming and the political processes of Zimbabwe in view of the elections that are scheduled for the 30th of this month. ERC plays a part in influencing that Zimbabwe’s electoral processes are held in accordance with principles of democracy.
The board agrees that in doing its work, ERC may not have acted in a manner that is convenient to other stakeholders but believes that its efforts are essential to entrenchment of democracy in the country in Zimbabwe. Further, the ERC believes in restoration of confidence in citizens that political power should only be obtained or retained through democratic elections that are free, fair, credible and transparent.
To that end, the ERC remains focused on holding the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to its Constitutional mandate to conduct free and fair elections including.
It wants ZEC provide a complete and verifiable voters’ roll to all election stakeholders. ERC is calling for transparent procurement, production, delivery, warehousing and distribution of sensitive electoral materials; transparent recruitment, training and deployment of election personnel; provision of clearly defined and timely shared election day processes and transparent deployment of a results management system; and the verifiability of all electoral process and all results announced by the Commission.
“Zimbabwe cannot hold a credible election if key election processes are conducted devoid of transparency and accountability, the values to which the ERC holds election stakeholders to.”