THE Information Communication Technology (ICT) Parliamentary Portfolio Committee has raised a red flag over erroneous figures in allocations to the ministry for the 2020 national budget.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
In a report issued in the National Assembly recently, the committee also cast doubt on the government’s pronouncements that it would modernise its ICT infrastructure due to low allocation to the ministry.
“In the 2020 national budget, the Ministry of ICT got an allocation of $114 million, and the allocated amount is contrary to announcements made in the budget speech, which said $314 million had been set aside for government ICT programmes,” the ICT committee report said.
“The excess funds have been directed to other ministries and government departments, namely $5 million for Smart Education, $194,8 million for the National Data Centre and Recovery Centre; $8 million for the commencement of the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) project and $20 million for the Judiciary Service Commission Integrated Electronic Case Management System (IECM).”
Finance minister Mthuli Ncube’s budget figures have been questioned by the Chinese and American governments, who said their development aid figures were severely understated, which meant there was no accountability.
“At the current prevailing exchange 1:15 rate to the United States dollar, the $114,5 million allocated to the Ministry of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services amounts to US$7,6 million far below the US$19 million expected by the African Development Bank 2019 Infrastructure Report for Zimbabwe to be committed towards capital expenditure for ICT in 2020,” the report said.
The MPs said this puts the ICT ministry allocation for 2020 in the bottom five in terms of priority ranking of budgetary allocation.
“The ranking, however, is not consistent with governments pronouncement of modernising government services through information technology such as e-government programmes as the ministry responsible is not being prioritised when it comes to funding its activities and programmes,” the committee said.
It said the budget allocation for 2020 towards the ICT ministry accounted for only 0,17% of the total appropriation for 2020, adding that the figure was comparable to other regional countries such as South Africa and Zambia.
In South Africa, the department of Telecommunication and Postal Services was allocated 0,09% of the national budget for the 2019/20 fiscal year, while in Zambia, allocation towards the Ministry of Transport and Communication accounted for 0,64% of the 2019 national budget.
“However, because the country is trying to catch up with other regional countries in terms of ICT development, the 0,17% allocation is too low as this has over the years been consistently less than 1% of the national budget and this shows the government’s lack of commitment to embrace the new digital age in social and economic transformation,” Parliament said.
The committee recommended that Treasury should have incentives for investors who want to start ICT businesses in the country.
“There is also need to capacitate innovation through the funding of start-ups in the ICT sector,” the committee said.