Professor Mthuli Ncube grovels before Biti in Parliament over budget overruns

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HARARE – Finance and Economic Development Minister Mthuli Ncube is set to appear before lawmakers soon to seek forgiveness for overspending of $107 billion in fiscal years 2019 and 2020 contrary to what was approved by Parliament.

Analysts said the exercise, while futile given the time that has elapsed since it happened, was essential for accountability and transparency, although it was best for the minister to quickly come up with a additional budget so that everyone understands the need to exceed the national budget.

The head of the Treasury will thus have to provide a convincing explanation on the justification and the nature of the programs which have seen him loosen the purse strings so much outside of the parliamentary obligations granted by the legislators of the National Assembly.

Mthuli recently tabled a Financial Adjustments Bill which was published in the Official Gazette to condone unauthorized expenditure incurred by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development for the years 2019 and 2020.

Legal think tank, Veritas Zimbabwe, says the Bill will go to Parliament because under Chapter 17 of the Constitution it is responsible for deciding how much money the government can spend and what the money should be used for. be spent.

It also ensures – as far as parliament can – that the government does not waste money or spend more than it has been allocated.

If the government has spent money badly or overspent, Veritas said Article 307 of the Constitution requires that “…the minister responsible for finance must present a bill to the National Assembly requesting the apologia for the expenditure unauthorized.

“The bill…must be tabled in the National Assembly without delay and in any event no later than sixty days after the extent of the unauthorized expenditure has been established.

The bill asks Parliament (belatedly) to condone Department of Finance spending of $6.7 billion for the year 2019 and $100.69 billion for the year 2020.

Neither the bill nor its memorandum, Veritas noted, explains why or how the department incurred the expenses; but suggested that to find out, one should look at the Auditor General’s reports on the appropriation accounts and the fund accounts for the two years concerned.

According to the Auditor General’s report for 2019 which was tabled in the National Assembly on June 16, 2021: “During the year under review, the Treasury incurred unauthorized excess expenditure in the amount of 6,806,340,654 $ following transfers from the unallocated reserve to the Ministries line for an amount of $7,386,995,654.

“This exceeded the approved budget by $580,655,000 in violation of Section 305(5) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe,” the Auditor General said. “The Treasury, as the steward of public funds, failed to comply with the legal provisions on the sanctioning of excessive spending by Parliament,” Veritas said.
The Auditor General’s figure for overspending is slightly higher (by $22,410,626) than the amount for which the bill seeks approval; that the Minister of Finance will explain when he delivers his speech at second reading in the National Assembly.

In the Auditor General’s Report for 2020, which was tabled in the National Assembly on March 8, 2022, she stated: The Department of Finance transferred to line departments a total of $102,085,420,418, which resulted in unauthorized overtransfers of $100,690,788,418.

“Excessive spending must still be condoned by Parliament under Section 307 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.”

huge amounts

Veritas said the overspending amounts, albeit in Zimbabwean dollars, are constantly losing value due to inflation, but the think tank noted that even so, they remain “very large – huge in fact”.
The 2019 amount, at the official exchange rate in December 2019 ($16.7: US$1) was worth US$406.2 million. The 2020 amount at the official exchange rate in December 2020 ((81.8 USD : 1 USD) was worth 1 2 000 000 000 USD.

The Minister of Finance, as manager of public funds, will have to explain to the National Assembly why he spent so much in 2019 and 2020. He has a lot of explanations to give.
Section 307 of the Constitution, Veritas Zimbabwe said, requires the Minister to submit a Tolerance Bill to the National Assembly no later than 60 days after the extent of unauthorized expenditure has been established.

The Auditor General’s report for 2019 was tabled in Parliament on June 13, 2021, just over a year ago; the extent of the overspending must have been established some time before, so the minister waited a year before seeking parliamentary approval.

The Auditor General’s report for 2020 was tabled on March 8, 2022, 97 days ago; once again, the minister illegally delayed his visit to Parliament.

Economic analyst Professor Gift Mugano said going forward that “the most ideal situation is to make an extra budget that will help everyone come into line with the new conditions. When asking for forgiveness for 2019 and 2020 is now an exercise in futility, no matter what happened, which we don’t know.

“We are being told now just belatedly, where were we when these things were happening, in a broader way it also affects trust issues,” he said, adding that going forward, we will not trust the authorities to stick to approved national budgets. .

“It’s good (that Minister Ncube asks for the apology), it’s better to be late than never, but it must never be repeated,” Prof Mugano said. – Weekly business

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