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‘Parly too weak to monitor agreements’

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Parliament is too weak to monitor government loan agreements and how public finances are used, Southern Africa Parliamentary Support Trust (Sapst) director John Makamure has said.

Makamure said it was of great concern that the Public Finance Management Act required ministers to submit reports before Parliament, but they were not doing so and yet Parliament remained silent on the issue.

He was speaking during a workshop for civic society organisations on budget reforms and expenditure tracking at a Harare hotel this week.

His observations came at a time the House of Assembly was coerced to ratify loan agreements with China worth $380 million, yet the agreements had already been signed and entered into by the Executive in March 2011 without first consulting Parliament.

Makamure also said of major concern was the fact that recently the Public Accounts Committee had summoned different ministries to explain how they used public funds, but most of them put the blame on continuous breakdown of the Public Finance Management system.

“Parliament is very weak when it comes to monitoring how our money is used, and, therefore, civic society and citizens should make sure they push for transparency and accountability in the manner public funds, assets and natural resources are used and should work closely with Parliament during the budget process and make sure timely interventions are made,” Makamure said.

“Government must explain to citizens why we always face constant breakdown of the Public Finance Management system and why they cannot take measures to fix it because some of us are beginning to suspect there might be some people benefiting from this continuous breakdown of the system.”

Makamure said all these issues should be addressed before the next budget formulation.

He said it was high time civic society groups worked hand in hand with Parliament portfolio committees so that they got involved in monitoring how public funds, resources, loans and assets were managed.

“If I was a legislator, I was going to insist that the way our funds are managed should be first fixed before we approve the next budget. If ministers are not submitting reports as per the Public Finance Management Act, MPs must make noise because they are violating the law,” Makamure said.

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