'Zim's Missing Billions Can Be Traced'

'Zim's Missing Billions Can Be Traced'
Published: 2016 June 15 06:50:37 (1948 Views)
ZIMBABWE can successfully track and recover billions of dollars that have been illegally siphoned out of the country using modern integrated information communication technology (ICT) government systems, an expert has said.

Chris Ndlovu, who is founder and chief executive officer of Duodecimar Technologies PL, a Bulawayo-based ICT firm, says the government needs to establish a financial intelligence fusion centre, which would easily track the culprits and assist in availing evidence for prosecution.

As the country continues to suffer severe resource drain and cash shortages in the wake of rampant externalisation of funds, smuggling of mineral resources and tax avoidance by individuals and corporates, debate has ensued on how the situation could be addressed.

President Mugabe has indicated that $15 billion could have been stolen from the diamond rich Marange mining fields in the past few years while some foreign nationals and individual corporate organisations and businesses have been linked to externalisation of funds since adoption of the multiple-currency system in 2009.

“Using available technology it’s scientifically possible for our government to track and audit trail all funds that were illegally transferred from Zimbabwe,” says Ndlovu, a specialist in government security systems and critical public infrastructure protection.

“The government should create a financial intelligence fusion centre that will help it track, trace and physically recover the funds in the form of cash, asserts, stock or shares that were purchased or invested using proceeds from Zimbabwe.

“The financial fusion centre could be made up of the police fraud detection unit, the RBZ financial intelligence arm, Zimra and the anti-corruption crack team. This team would also reconcile with all financial institutions’ monitoring units including those of banks.”

Ndlovu, who had a long stint overseas and in Botswana while engaged in a similar field, said his company was willing to assist the government in setting up this financial nerve centre that would curb leakages.

He believes such as a technological system could be applied anywhere where transfer of funds in the country is involved including links to the vehicle registry system and the deeds office.

“This will assist in monitoring acquisition of assets by individuals in relation to the wealth they have to detect suspicious transactions,” said Ndlovu.

Using open data sources and modern information systems, he believes the government could easily dig into the information that banks have and nail the culprits.

“In this case banks are the first culprits that participate in the transaction of funds because no money can leave a country without going through a banking system although there’s a possibility that some unscrupulous business people manually smuggle the money in the form of US$ or rand and banked outside the country,” said Ndlovu.

Given that neighbouring countries or the international finance system will always request the source of funds before being deposited, Ndlovu says Zimbabwe can track its missing funds.

“Banks have what’s called ‘due customer diligence’, which enables them to know the status of their customers and detect suspicious transactions. This is a monitoring system that is required for every bank. One wonders how banks allow millions of dollars to be illegally transferred without going through the RBZ monitoring systems,” he said.

Early this year central bank chief John Mangudya revealed that an excess of $2 billion was externalised last year.

“We can assist the government in investigating these illegal transfers, which were not sanctioned by the RBZ including tax evasion, under-declared profits and inflated procurement and operational costs,” said Ndlovu.

“This system will be able to communicate with the suspect foreign accounts to which Zimbabwean funds were transferred.”

He urged the government to pilot the exercise with a minimum target of recovering $1,5 billion to prove the credibility of the approach.

Ndlovu castigated Zimbabweans who make wealth in the country and export profits to another country.

He said such people were guilty of sabotaging the economy and creating jobs and development in foreign territories at the expense of their country.

“Ironically the same people criticise the government for economic failure,” said Ndlovu.

He said the proposed introduction of bond notes was a good way of controlling capital flight.

On how the country could recover the externalised funds Ndlovu said Zimbabwe, as a signatory to the international treaties “has the authority and ability to retrieve any funds that were transferred through money laundering”.

He said their technology can also be used to investigate mines that exported the country’s wealth without declaring the correct value of the by products.

“Probe into mining can be done using open data sources from aerial magnetic geological surveys, validating the content of minerals extracted in a particular area and reconciling this with the mining files and the mineral rich dumps. It’s possible to evaluate mineral content visa-vis what was exported.

“The same technology can be applied to tracking externalisation by retail operators using export and import invoices and data from shipping firms that processed those invoices as well as receiving agencies on the destination,” said Ndlovu.

He said developed countries were using the same approach “hence their economies are flourishing because they are able to intercept any illegal funds transfer and money laundering”.



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