UNITED STATES deputy ambassador to Zimbabwe, Thomas Hastings, has questioned development aid figures released recently by Finance minister Mthuli Ncube in the 2020 national budget statement, saying the funds were less than what his country provided in the 2019 financial year.
In an interview in Masvingo on Tuesday, Hastings said the amount of financial aid to Zimbabwe this year was understated by the government.
In his budget statement, Ncube indicated that Zimbabwe this year received development support from the United States amounting to US$252 722 653 – but the embassy says this is well short of US$330 million on its books.
The Chinese government also recently questioned Ncube’s figures indicating that they provided only US$3 631 500 for development support, instead of over US$136 million.
“They recently released the total amount of money that we gave in 2019, it was about US$330 million. So, it was a bit more than it was in the budget report that’s the total amount that includes our work with PEPFAR (US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief), it includes work that we have provided this year for food relief, people who are faced with food insecurity because of the drought and other causes. It also includes the assistance that was given to people who suffered the consequences of Cyclone Idai. So, putting all the numbers together it was over US$330 million this year,” Hastings said.
Hastings said Zimbabwean authorities should include all the development aid provided by the United States in 2019.
“Well, it’s important to include all of the programmes and that’s why we recently put the information out there to make sure that the total amount of our assistance was made known to the people of Zimbabwe,” the deputy ambassador added.
He could not be drawn to comment on suggestions that the understating of the development aid provided by the Zimbabwean government was being deliberately done by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.
“I don’t know about that, you have to talk to the ministry of Finance about how they came up with all those numbers … when you take the amount of work we do with health, with food assistance and Cyclone Idai and emergency relief, that’s how much it totalled.”
Information ministry secretary Ndavaningi Mangwana yesterday said government appreciated aid but claimed it was difficult to track all the money as some of it ended up in civil society and non-governmental organisations coffers.
“We appreciate funds other nations spend on programmes in this country. Some funds are spent via CSOs, NGOs and others directly on certain projects. As an example, a certain country may fund a Zim comedienne to do certain skits. Of course our Treasury can’t put that money in our books,” said Mangwana on his Twitter account.
Contacted for clarification, Mangwana referred the NewsDay to Ncube who was unreachable while a message sent on his mobile phone was not replied to.
The US is the second country after China that disputed Ncube’s figures presented in the 2020 national budget.
Ncube said the country received US$194 million from donor countries in the first three quarters of this year, of which only US$3,6 million came from China.
In response to Ncube’s gaffe, the Chinese embassy in Harare put the figure at US$136,8 million and urged the Zimbabwean government to “make a comprehensive assessment of the bilateral support figures and accurately reflect the actual situation when formulating the budget statement.
This pressured Ncube to issue a statement saying they were consulting each other on the issue.
Chinese deputy ambassador Zhao Boagang while addressing a gathering in Harare mocked Ncube’s figures saying China gave Zimbabwe five chickens, but only two were accounted for. — VOA/additional reporting by Desmond Chingarande