A PARLIAMENTARY committee has warned that preparations for the 2018 elections are under serious financial threat, as the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has not been allocated any money for voter registration and possible by-elections under the 2016 National Budget announced in November last year.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
This was disclosed by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, chaired by Jessie Majome, in a recent report on the 2016 budgets allocations to various commissions.
The committee said the meagre allocations to Zec and failure to allocate money for voter registration might compromise the electoral body’s preparations for the 2018 elections.
Zec had planned to use the upcoming by-elections to test-run its electoral machinery, including the recently-introduced polling station-based voting system, ahead of the main elections due in two years.
The elections have already created a lot of anxiety among various political parties, including the ruling Zanu PF party, after opposition parties intimated that they would form a grand coalition with ousted former Vice-President Joice Mujuru to challenge President Robert Mugabe.
In his 2016 budget statement, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa gave Zec a total of $8 316 000, yet the electoral body had requested for
$29 million to enable it to acquire vehicles and for other key logistics needed for the voter registration exercise.
In the previous elections, Zec relied on hired vehicles from private motorists and CMED and it still owes $2,5 million for services rendered by various suppliers in the 2013 elections.
“The $8,3 million allocation is insufficient for Zec’s operations to maintain a strong presence in the electoral process,” Majome said in her report.
“Some of the activities that would be constrained include voter registration since the budget does not take into account the proposed unavoidable expansion to cater for this registration and conducting of elections.”
The committee further said: “Voter registration and by-elections budgets were not considered at all, regardless of the fact that the expenditure items constitute unavoidable constitutional obligations.
“Nothing was allocated for the capital expenditure to include motor vehicles for commissioners, secretariat and administration, office accommodation for provinces and districts’ voter registration equipment.”
The committee said it was imperative for the voter registration exercise to kick off in 2016 if Zimbabwe is to have a credible voters’ roll and election results.
“There is need for purchase of vehicles for commissioners and the secretariat because the fleet currently in use was purchased in 2007. The vehicles are now spending more time in the garage than on the road and have become a drain on the budget in terms of maintenance charges the committee.”
The committee also noted that budgeting for by-elections was pivotal in a democracy and was in line with provisions of the Constitution, which demands a by-election be held within 90 days from the date when a seat falls vacant.
Recently, Chinamasa had to seek parliamentary condonation in the Senate for expenditures amounting to $152 725 590 incurred between July and mid-December 2015. The amount included costs of by-elections held in various parts of the country, employment costs, grain procurement and infrastructural development projects.
The money had not been budgeted for in the 2015 National Budget.