Finance minister Tendai Biti has resisted attempts by Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo to coerce him to fork out $2 million to purchase traditional chiefs’ vehicles, citing government’s difficult fiscal position.
Biti yesterday said there was no way he could release the money given that 67% of revenue were going towards civil servants’ salaries. “There is no need for politicising the whole issue,” said Biti.
“The fact is the country is in a difficult fiscal position and I made it very clear in the 2012 budget. We have to balance between wage demands and other obligations such as education, agriculture, health and social welfare.”
Chombo last month wrote to Biti imploring him to release the funds before President Robert Mugabe met chiefs in Bulawayo last week.
“May I also acknowledge that your ministry was not able to avail funds to the tune of $2 000 000 for the procurement of chiefs’ vehicles in 2011,” Chombo wrote in the January 31, 2012 letter.
“My ministry made yet another bid for the 2012 financial year to facilitate this scheme. We will convene the 2011 edition of the annual conference of chiefs within the next two weeks. The conference will be attended by His Excellency the President and these two issues will certainly be brought up.”
Chombo also wants government to review upwards traditional leaders’ allowances and perks, but said his efforts to engage Biti had so far failed to yield desired results as the Treasury boss has remained “mum” on the matter.
“It is important for the chiefs’ welfare to be prioritised to enable them to effectively discharge their responsibilities as well as accord them the due respect they deserve as custodians of the country’s traditional values and customs,” Chombo said.
In his address to the chiefs, Chombo was at pains explaining why government had not yet secured funding for their new vehicles. The chiefs also demanded guns, diplomatic passports, electrified homes and a review of their monthly allowances currently pegged at $300.
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