THE Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chaired by MDC deputy president Tendai Biti has vowed to turn the heat on the Finance ministry, which has been accused of breaching the Constitution and other laws governing its conduct.
BY OBEY MANAYITI
The alleged shortcomings have created numerous loopholes on the national purse contrary to the spirit of transparency and accountability in public resources management.
A report released by PAC and presented before Parliament recently focused on, among other areas, the foreign and domestic debt, compliance with set regulations and internal mechanisms to guard against abuse of public funds.
Among the key findings, the Finance ministry was found wanting with regards to non-compliance with the provisions of section 300(3) of the Constitution in that the Finance minister Mthuli Ncube failed to publish, in the Gazette, loans contracted and guarantees issued by government within 60 days of their conclusion.
This follows conflicting figures on Zimbabwe’s debt.
PAC also noted that the total amount for domestic and foreign debt of US$17,69 billion as at August 2018 reported in the 2019 Budget Statement was different from US$9 230 742 461 reflected in the 2019 Budget Estimates and that, in some cases, some external debts were improperly classified as domestic debt.
“The Minister of Finance and Economic Development must cause the terms of loans contracted and guarantees to be published in the Gazette by September 30, 2019. This applies to loans and guarantees that were not previously published,” warned PAC.
PAC also noted that the Finance ministry failed to comply with section 300(4) of the Constitution, in that Ncube failed to present to Parliament a report on loans raised and guarantees issued by the State and a comprehensive report on public debt and non-compliance with section 305(5) of the Constitution for failing to present in the National Assembly, additional or supplementary estimates of expenditure and additional or supplementary bills.
Zimbabwe’s budget deficit has been growing astronomically since 2014 where $184,4 million was recorded, $392,6 million (2015), $392,6 millon (2016), $2 520,1 billion (2017) and $1 566 billion for 2018.
Among other issues, the report exposed deep-rooted incompetence and non-compliance with many sections of the Public Finance Management (PFM) Act.
The report noted that there was non-compliance with section 30 of the PFM Act (Chapter 22:19) in that Treasury failed to withhold funds appropriated to other ministries whose functions were assigned to other ministries and to allocate those remaining funds to another ministry or institution.
The report also took a dig at the Accountant-General for failure to prepare consolidated monthly financial statements for the accounting officer to cause such statements to be published in the Gazette, within 30 of the next succeeding month as required by the law.
The ministry also failed to prepare for transmission to the Auditor-General, the transactions of the Consolidated Revenue Fund and the financial position of the State within three months after the end of each financial year.
The ministry also failed to comply with section 11(2) of the Public Debt Management Act in that the limits for government borrowing were not fixed by the National Assembly by resolution nor by means of a provision in a Finance Bill as well as section 13(1) of the Public Debt Management Act in that the Minister of Finance and Economic Development failed to comply with the requirements and condition for borrowings.
“(There was) non-compliance with section 28 of the Public Debt Management Act in that the Minister of Finance and Economic Development failed to establish registries for registration of bonds and stock and to appoint registrars, agents and any other persons necessary for raising, issuing, management and repayment of State loans,” the report read
“(There was) non-compliance with section 29(1) of the Public Debt Management Act in that the Minister of Finance and Economic Development failed to lay before the National Assembly statements relating to guarantees on any of the first seven sittings when the National Assembly first sits after the guarantees were first given under section 23(2).
“(There was) non-compliance with section 30 of the Public Debt Management Act in that the Minister of Finance and Economic Development failed to list and present to the National Assembly, monthly, quarterly and annual reports on loans and guarantees.”
The committee warned that it will not hesitate to turn the heat on the ministry if it does not properly follow laid down procedures.
“On the Committee’s part, it shall be its duty to follow up on compliance of its recommendations. It is in the best interest of our country that there is transparency and accountability around public resources,” the Biti-led committee said.
“It is also important that those who are entrusted with public funds do so diligently, openly and with great respect to the Constitution and laws of the country.”