Govt defaulting on hotel bill settlements

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By Alois Vinga

FINANCE Minister Mthuli Ncube is reportedly struggling to settle hotel bills incurred over a period by government officials in various ministries and other departments.

Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe (TBCZ) immediate past president, Tichaona Hwingwiri said continuous delays by treasury to honour debts owed to service providers was affecting the sector’s viability.

“Service providers have not yet received payment for services offered to government officials and other related departments.

“We urgently need assistance to get these funds from Treasury because the reopening phase ahead of us requires enough funds to purchase Personal Protective Equipment and testing for employees to prevent Covid-19,” he said.

Hwingwiri added that some of the debts dated back to almost a year ago and pleaded with Tourism Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu at a press briefing Thursday to engage treasury for expeditious resolution on the matter.

Asked to disclose the exact quantum owed, current TBCZ president, Winnie Muchanyuka said she did not have the figures offhand but maintained it was a huge amount.

“I can’t give you the actual figure because it is not only hotels being owed. Other numerous service providers like travel agencies are also owed.

“What I can tell is that a request was sent to the Treasury, but it has not been actioned,” she said.

TBCZ also bemoaned the inaccessibility of the ZWL$500 million Covid-19 stimulus package awarded to the sector by the government almost three months ago.

In response, Minister Ndlovu expressed shock over the outstanding payments and committed to urgently engage Treasury for a lasting solution.

Efforts to get a comment from the the finance ministry over the matter were fruitless.

Government failure to honour debts owed to service providers within the private sector comes at a time Ncube has declared ZWL$1.195 billion in terms of budget surpluses since assuming office two years ago.