AN audit should be done on the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) debt and those who owe the bank should pay up as government has no capacity to take over the $1,35 billion debt, stakeholders said yesterday.
They also want the list of creditors to be published to recover the money.
Contributing to public hearings on the RBZ (Debt Assumption) Bill conducted by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Finance and Budget in Harare yesterday, Farai Benhure said government was already highly indebted with over $2 billion in debts and to assume the RBZ debt would simply further burden the already burdened country.
“Certain people benefited directly from this particular section, so I’m very sure the RBZ cannot only have creditors, there are also debtors. As Zimbabweans, we want an audit that will tell us who owes the RBZ. Those people are supposed to be given individual invoices so that they pay and I am very sure most of these people are alive and not dead,” he said.
“We cannot then have someone who is just a mere taxpayer paying for a debt that was incurred by certain Zimbabweans who are able to pay. You can actually tell from the list that some of the things were used for business and in my view these people actually made money from those things, so they are obligated to pay.”
Benhure said there should be an audit first “before we even began to talk of transferring the debt to government, because at the end of the day the actual debt that government needs to pay might be only $200 000, but now we have to bear a cost of paying billions of dollars”.
In June, draft legislation to take over RBZ’s $1,35 billion debt was gazetted. The Bill is under consideration by the Parliamentary Legal Committee.
The Bill seeks to provide settlement of certain liabilities incurred by the central bank. In terms of the Bill, the State would assume debts incurred by the RBZ before December 31 2008.
Speaking at the same event, Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (Zimcodd) member Israel Mabhoo said there was need for an official public debt audit so that the citizens know how much is owed and to who. He said an independent debt management office has to be put in place.
Another Zimcodd member Masimba Manyanya said if government was to assume the RBZ debt, it was the taxpayer who would bear the burden of paying back the money.
“Social and economic development will be affected as the funds are diverted towards debt repayment,” he said.
Greeyps Consultancy Company managing consultant Cade Zvavanjanja wanted to know what RBZ’s strategy to repay was when it contracted the debt.
“RBZ at the moment hasn’t been playing its core role. It has lots of assets which are non-essential for their role as the regulator. So they should liquidate those non-core assets to service some of the debts. The building which they have is a building of high value and with that capacity to be efficient I think it’s being under-utilised so I think they can actually lease it or sell the building,” Zvavanjanja.
“So in summary, the RBZ should liquidate some of its non-core assets especially the building and the sports club, reduce its number of employees, their debt service plan as a contingent plan, and those people who benefited directly should pay for themselves.”