THE coalition government has spent some US$157 million on foreign travel since coming into office in 2009 but Finance Minister Tendai Biti admitted Wednesday that they had precious little to show in return by way of benefits for the country.
Biti revealed the cost of the government's globe-trotting as he presented a mid-term fiscal review to Parliament that downgraded growth prospects for the economy and included spending cuts of up to 10 per cent as well as a jump in tax rates.
He said a major factor in the government’s budget going off the rails was the cost of foreign travel with officialsspending more than $157 million on international trips since 2009.
"Another elephant in the living room is foreign travel. This is an area where we have to take action,” he said and admitted that the benefits of the foreign trips did not match their cost.
Biti said spending on foreign travel outstripped the non-wage budget allocations for essential ministries like health and education.
"Expenditures on foreign travel remain disproportionate to expenditures on more essential services such as health, education, social protection, infrastructure development and support to agriculture,” he said.
Over the six months between January and June this year, the government used US$20 million on foreign travel while spending on education and health not related to salaries for state workers was just over US$5 million and about US$13 million respectively.
“While it is necessary that Zimbabwe is represented at regional and international events, essential services will have to take priority, while foreign trips will need to be further managed downwards,” Biti said.
“I, therefore, re-emphasise the importance of containing the foreign travel expenditures within allocations in line with measures announced in the 2012 National Budget, which include managing foreign trips, limiting the size of delegations and adhering to Treasury per diem rates.
“(However I would like to) acknowledge the support from the Principals and further count on their assistance in this area. Measures are also being considered towards containment of costs of airfares, including forward purchase of air tickets.”