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Mugabe blows US$20,6m on foreign trips
27/07/2011 00:00:00
by Staff Reporter
 
Globe trotter ... President Mugabe
 
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PM outspends Mugabe on foreign travel
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has spent US$20,6 million on foreign travel in the first half of this year, reports said on Wednesday.

Mugabe, currently attending the United Nations General Assembly’s high level meeting on youth in New York, has overshot his budget for the year by US$5,6 million, according to the privately-owned Daily News newspaper.

The revelations came after state media reported last Sunday that Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s office “has the highest expenditure on government travel” as a percentage of its staff complement.

Tsvangirai’s office, which employs 52 people including his two deputies, had blown US$3,7 million on foreign travel. The President’s office has a staff complement of 498, including Mugabe’s two deputies.

The Zanu PF-leaning Sunday Mail newspaper, accusing Tsvangirai of “abuse of public funds”, said he had “no mandate in the discharge of foreign affairs” to explain his foreign travel.

The pro-MDC Daily News, meanwhile, said Mugabe’s expenditure showed his “legendary penchant for foreign travel”.
 
Mugabe routinely diverts Air Zimbabwe planes when travelling abroad, while Tsvangirai uses foreign commercial airlines.

The foreign travel bill has been a major worry for Finance Minister Tendai Biti who got Cabinet approval early this month to order ministers travelling abroad not to take their aides on the trips.

The directive came ahead of Biti’s mid-term budget review on Tuesday in which he revealed Zimbabwe would suffer a US$700 million budget deficit by the end of the year.

A circular to government departments signed by Cabinet Secretary Misheck Sibanda on July 7 said only Biti, State Security Minister Sydney Sekeramayi and Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi would be allowed aides.

“The remaining Cabinet ministers and deputy ministers will not require services of aides on travel outside the country, unless advised otherwise on the basis of threat assessments by the President’s department [Central Intelligence Organisation],” the circular said.

“The current practice where most ministers are accompanied by security aides cannot be sustained.”

The Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development, which lists among its objectives a commitment to raise the level of economic literacy, said the government was getting its priorities wrong.



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“The meagre revenue by the government should be directed towards critical needs like health, HIV drugs and education,” the organisation’s chairman Joy Mabenge said.

“The government leaders should avoid squeezing the fiscus on issues that do not benefit the entire nation.”


 
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