By Costa Nkomo
PUBLIC Accounts Committee chairperson Tendai Biti Monday directed the Clerk of Parliament to issue a warrant of arrest against Ministry of Finance secretary, George Guvamatanga following his failure to turn up for hearing.
Guvamatanga was expected to appear before Biti’s committee Monday to explain the Financial Adjustment Bill government introduced in November 2019.
The Bill was seeking condonation on a US$10.6 billion unsanctioned expenditure between 2015 and 2018.
In 2018 alone, the government spent over US$3.5 billion outside the budget and it did so in violation of the Constitution which says Parliament must approve the budget supplement.
The period to which the government should have sought condonation was within 60 days from the time they were aware of the over-expenditure but the bill was brought to Parliament in November 2019.
Biti said the adjustment bill did not have the US$10.6 billion “disaggregated ministry by ministry or vote by vote and year by year” to quantify the exact excess amount spent by each ministry.
However, Guvamatanga and Finance Ministry officials did not pitch up prompting the committee to issue a warrant of arrest.
“The unanimous decision of this committee is that we are directing the Clerk of Parliament to issue a warrant of arrest or a warrant of contempt in terms of the Parliamentary Privileges Act summoning Mr George. T. Guvamatanga and the ministry officials to appear before our committee on the 5th of October 2020 at 1000hours,” the Harare East lawmaker said.
“If he fails to turn up again, there are consequences already defined in the parliamentary Privileges Act and the law will follow its course.”
In a letter to Parliament, Guvamatanga said he could not appear before the committee because he was seized with the National Development Strategy document and preparations of the 2021 national budget.
However, Biti found the excuse to be contemptuous of his committee.
“We find the attitude of George Guvamatanga very disrespectful, very contemptuous of this committee and therefore of Parliament. Parliament has got the role of oversight codified in section 119 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe over every constitutional body,” he said.
It is not the first time Guvamatanga and his finance ministry officials have failed to turn up for hearing before the public accounts committee.
Biti said recently, his committee condoned Guvamatanga after he failed to appear before the same due to Covid-19 after the senior government official had tested positive to the deadly virus. He has since recovered.
“To then continue receiving a harvest of excuses, this committee has unanimously said, we will not accept that, we are putting our foot on the ground. This is not the first time we have received such contempt from Mr George Guvamatanga.”