By Blessed Mhlanga
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government spent over US$10 billion in unbudgeted public funds, and now wants Parliament to okay the unexplained expenditure, raising the ire of opposition members of Parliament.
Government last Thursday published the Financial Adjustment Bill HB19 of 2019 in which it seeks to offload US$10,6 billion onto taxpayers the borrowings which were made without consent from Parliament.
“If a government ministry or department spends money in any financial year in excess of the amount appropriated, or for a purpose for which nothing was appropriated, the Minister of Finance is required, in terms of section 3017 of the Constitution, to cause a Bill condoning the unauthorised expenditure … In line with the above, we seek condonation for unauthorised expenditures incurred by line ministries,” reads the Bill.
Public Accounts Committee, chairperson and former Finance minister Tendai Biti said the Bill was an attempt to legalise theft of public funds by the ruling elite.
“They stole US$10 billion which they are now asking Parliament to accept and forgive! Most of that money, US$8 billion was stolen in the two years of Emmerson’s reign,” he tweeted yesterday.
According to the Bill, the money was borrowed as follows: 2015, US$25 305 741; 2016, US$1 530 890 050; 2017, US$4 562 064 122 and 2018, US$3 560 343 130, leaving the unauthorised government debt at US$10 679 603 044.
Biti said the Financial Adjustments Bill was poorly crafted and did not even tell Parliament exactly how the money was used and by which particular ministry, raising fears that it could be a grand cover up of looting.
“The Bill is poorly crafted, a reflection of party State conflation. It has no tables disaggregating the expenditure, a deliberate attempt to hide and deceive. Contrary to the Constitution it doesn’t give a breakdown of what the amounts were used for to justify condonation. The breakdown of the rapid rise extraction and theft under Emmerson is self-evident,” Biti told NewsDay yesterday.
Mabvuku legislator James Chidhakwa said the Bill will be scrutinised and the Executive will be asked to account for money he alleges could have been looted for political party campaigns.
“How does a government blow $8 billion in just two years and preach austerity at the same time.
“It’s time we demand answers from a government that blames everyone else for our problems except themselves. These guys were and are still looting this country clean, then they blame sanctions,” he said.
Economist Godfrey Kanyenze, gave PAC a thumbs up saying: “This was discussed by the PAC and now government is coming out clean and trying to sanitise themselves.
“This shows that the fiscal indiscipline continued way after (the late former President Robert) Mugabe and still continues today.”
Kanyenze said the US$10,6 billion debt also shows that while government was preaching austerity, those in power continued to siphon money while the ordinary person was hit hard in the pocket.
“Austerity is hitting the ordinary person, while those with power are dipping from government coffers. There is clearly a culture of looting and failure to respect the laws in the manner of transparency, especially by the ministry of Finance,” he said.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) immediately demanded an independent audit of the debt saying citizens should know how the money was used first before being asked to condone the debt.
“Fundamentally there must be a debt audit not only for this particular debt, but for many others to establish what the money was used for. No doubt the money was used for nefarious activities, especially the factional fights in Zanu PF from 2015.
“No doubt some of it could have been pocketed by individuals. This is the right time for Parliament to state its authority and demand an audit of these debts,” ZCTU president Peter Mutasa said.
Social Commentator, Rashweat Mukundu called for an urgent review of laws to help entrench accountability and transparency, particularly on how public funds are used.
“The whole thing essentially shows how the ministry of Finance and government departments are subverting the laws and the Constitution to abuse the public purse and now coming to seek to legalise their actions. This points to lack of transparency and the need to review laws,” he said. NewsDay