No money for elections — Biti

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) requires $400 million to organise elections, Finance minister Tendai Biti has said.

Addressing a press conference on the state of the economy and attendant challenges facing the country in Harare yesterday, Biti said revenue collections for the year had fallen behind schedule.

Revenue collected for the first three months was $656,6 million. If the country was to meet the budget target of $2,7 billion it needed to collect revenues of $230 million per month.

“The economy cannot sustain an election. The budget we have has remained static. ZEC has submitted a budget of $400 million,” said Biti.

“Where do I get that kind of money when I am looking for $150 million to fund the budget deficit if revenues remain as they are?”

He said Treasury had, however, set aside funds for the roadmap that would lead to the holding of free and fair elections such as funding the constitution-making process.

“Government recently procured for ZEC a building worth $6,6 million to be used as its headquarters,” said Biti.

The minister said of concern to Treasury was the ballooning foreign trip expenses which he said had topped $12,5 million in the first three months of this year.

“Foreign travel of this government has gone overboard. The State of Rome is not that healthy,” he said.

Turning to civil servants’ salaries, Biti said Zimbabwe’s wage bill had become astronomically high compared to other countries in the region.

Total employment costs for the first quarter amounted to $248,6 million.

“More appalling is the fact that, despite this high wage bill, individual salary levels in the civil service are pathetic. The civil service audit that was sanctioned by government in 2009 has revealed rampant existence of ghost workers,” he said.

Biti said the audit unearthed 75 000 workers whose status was questionable. Of the 75 000, 13 000 were of non-existent people while the rest received money from government but were not working anywhere.

He said civil servants’ salaries would only be reviewed after there was transparency in the handling of diamond revenue and when the issue of ghost workers was dealt with.

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