Some senior Government officials and managers at State-owned companies have been enjoying free lunch for too long, but thanks to austerity measures being implemented by fiscal and monetary authorities, it is our hope that this will soon end.
There are so many areas the officials have been taking advantage of, while concealing activities and programmes that are heavily bleeding State coffers.
Such practices should be nipped in the bud because the luxuries have been taking a toll on State coffers. We feel that the measures being implemented by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development Professor Mthuli Ncube will eradicate the rot sooner rather than later.
Therefore, the announcement last week through Statutory Instrument (SI) 144 of 2019 that seeks to tighten the belt in public finances management and devise measures to govern expenditure and debt is a welcome move.
Prof Ncube approved the Treasury instruments in terms of Section 78 of the Public Finance Management Act (Chapter 22:19).
The new measures are a departure from the previous regime’s practices, and are seen as a huge step towards cutting Government expenditure in line with the 2019 National Budget, which was presented under the theme: “Austerity for prosperity”.
Yes, there has been a dark period that was experienced because of the austerity measures, but there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel.
A key feature of the new regulations — contained in the SI, also known as Public Finance Management (Treasury Instructions) 2019 gazetted last Friday — saw the curtailing of expenses related to Government officials travelling with spouses or family while on duty.
Additionally, the regulations set out conditions for payment for trips and we applaud Government as they dovetail into numerous measures that have been put in place to handle Budget deficit, among other financial ills.
History has shown that there are some cases in which senior Government officials, who, after travelling to different parts of the world on Government business, would also refuse to pay duty for goods they brought into the country.
While this happens, Zimra would pounce on private travellers, demanding duty on nearly everything, including second-hand clothes, while senior Government officials together with their spouses would import vehicles and spares duty-free.
On costs incurred by Government officials’ families, the new regulations reads: “Government shall not be responsible for costs incurred when officers on official duty travel with spouses, children or dependants.”
Very impressive indeed!
Given the frequency some of the officials were travelling together with their families, surely hundreds of thousands of dollars are going to be saved and redeployed to other sections of Government needing attention.
The new regulations also seek to supervise the consolidated revenue fund, charges upon the fund, appropriations from the fund, limits of State borrowing, public debt and State guarantees, safeguards of public funds and properties, among 10 of the key deliverables.
During the First Republic, there was a misnomer where police, local authorities and other arms of the State would collect revenue from citizens for services and fines for violating some sections of the law and would refuse to hand over the money to Treasury.
A case in point was the Zimbabwe Republic Police department that openly refused to surrender all fines collected and only God knows who used the money and for what purposes.
Kudos to the new Government, that practice is now a thing of the past. SI 144 takes into account the macro-economic framework, Government’s future borrowing requirements as well as domestic and international economic and financial conditions.
Under the TSP — a national short-term economic blueprint that runs from October 2018 to December 2020 — Government commits to strengthening public finance management systems, and the move to formulate a medium-term debt management strategy is part of the process.
The TSP prioritises strengthening the Public Finance Management System, building on work already being conducted under the World Bank managed Zimbabwe Reconstruction Fund, to roll-out the system to cover all districts.
It is against this backdrop that we urge Zimbabweans to support Government measures as it moves to address the ills of the past.