$17m debt chokes Justice ministry

JUSTICE secretary Virginia Mabiza last week told Parliament that her ministry was saddled with debts of over $17 million, some of which dated back to the drafting and adoption of the country’s Constitution in 2013.


Mabiza, who appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice to speak on the 2019 national budget last Thursday, disclosed that despite her ministry’s indebtedness, they were likely to get a meagre allocation of $153 million against a bid of $236 million, and, therefore, creating an $83 million budget deficit, which would have an impact on their performance.

“Outstanding payments to service providers date back to 2013, and these debts include Copac [Constitution Parliamentary Committee], and $17 million owed by prisons for rates, water, electricity, vehicle hire, hospital fees, and rations, and the Attorney-General’s Office owes service providers more than $807 000, which is actually more than their 2018 budget, which was $713 000,” she said.

Mabiza told the committee that despite the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services’ indebtedness, prison diet had improved tremendously, with cases of malnutrition in prisons having notably reduced.

“We experience staff shortages and the Prisons and Correctional Services department is the most affected, as you know that it is a high security place, and it is not right for prisons to have a few prison officers. There are no vehicles to ferry prisoners to court. We were authorised to buy vehicles to ferry prisoners to court, but due to shortages of foreign currency, we just have the authority to do so on paper,” she said.

“They have a prescribed ratio of inmates to officer, which we have failed to meet, and for the past two years, we had made an application that we get allowed to recruit 1 500 prison officers, but we have only managed to recruit 500 officers, which is far inadequate because of our security concerns.”

Mabiza said other challenges experienced by her ministry included limited co-operation from some ministries in the alignment of legislation to the Constitution.

However, she said the reasons could be due to unclear policies.

“For example, we had a torrid time trying to align provincial councils with local government because maybe the policy on devolution at that time was not as clear as now,” Mabiza said.

She said some of the achievements by her ministry were that they had managed to distribute 35 000 copies of the Constitution and translated it into 15 languages, the 16th being English, which was already available, but they faced challenges in distributing it to various communities.

“Some of our 2018 achievements were that we completed 1 822 court cases and drafted 58 Bills related to alignment of legislation to the Constitution and also ease of doing business. A total of 513 statutory instruments were also provided, as well as 60 legal opinions to government departments. In our international obligations, we produced two State party reports. We also launched the International Property Rights National Policy,” she said.

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