Transport minister should come clean on vehicle ‘scandal’ — PM

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Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday said the Ministry of Transport should clear the air concerning the alleged “Luxurygate scandal” that has seen Cabinet ministers cruising in top-of-the-range vehicles.

“In the face of accusations of profligacy, the Prime Minister, as the Head of Government charged with the responsibility of formulating and implementing government policy, has sought to clarify the cost and the context of the procurement of the alleged vehicles,” said the PM in a statement issued through his spokesperson, Luke Tamborinyoka.

He said government operations should be above board and, in the public interest, the number of vehicles procured and their total cost should be disclosed to taxpayers.

Tsvangirai said there had not been any allocation of funds to purchase vehicles this year and the 2010 allocation had been used to acquire off-road vehicles used for outreach purposes.

Some of the ministers’ vehicles include Mercedes Benzes, Jeep Cherokees, Land Cruiser V8 and the 2011 Land Rover Discovery 4.

Tsvangirai said last year government set aside $1, 5 million for the purchase of off-road vehicles for Cabinet ministers and other senior government officials.

“The money was disbursed to the Ministry of Transport in December 2010. The CMED (Central Mechanical Equipment Department), a private company, has proceeded to acquire the vehicles which are a condition of service for Cabinet ministers,” said the Premier.

“Since January 2011, the Ministry of Finance has been gazetting accounts following the procurement of vehicles for education officers, health officials and other key departments in line with allocations in the 2011 Budget.”

Tsvangirai said ministers earned meagre salaries just like civil servants, without allowances due to limited fiscal space. He said there should be transparency in the conditions of service, remuneration and other perks for all senior officers.

The PM noted that while the current law demanded that the President’s salary should be gazetted, there was need for greater transparency where all remuneration and benefits for everyone in the government were made public.

“It is important for everyone in public service, including Cabinet ministers, to declare their assets and for the government to have a comprehensive and vehicle policy,” reads part of the statement.

“The bottom line is that civil servants and Cabinet ministers must be well remunerated so that they are able to buy vehicles from their own salary.”