Mthuli Ncube sets tight leash on public spending

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By Alois Vinga

FINANCE Minister, Mthuli Ncube has moved to try and plug all possible revenue leakages in government and its related departments by announcing a raft of new measures aimed at increasing accountability in the handling of public funds.

Parliament has also raised the red flag on unwarranted spending at a time central government has introduced its “austerity measures” anchored on massive cuts in public spending.

Early this week, MDC-T MP, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga demanded audience with President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

She argued only Mnangagwa and Foreign Affairs Minister Sibusiso Moyo should be travelling at a time the country is in deep economic crisis.

Under the new measures contained under Statutory Instrument (SI) 144 of 2019 released Friday, the annual national budget and all decisions to borrow on behalf of the public will now be subject to parliamentary scrutiny and approval prior finalisation.

The new instructions have widened the Auditor General Office (AG)’s authority when scrutinising accounts for government departments, allowing the request of additional information containing details of revenue collected and justification on expenditures which was not previously requested.

Other documents which the AG may require to ensure exhaustive disclosure on financial expenditure include a statement of cash receipts and payments accounting policies and explanatory notes.

“When the entity makes publicly available its approved budget, a comparison of budget and actual amounts, a separate additional financial statement or a budget column in the statement of cash receipts (indicating) financial position, performance, changes in net assets or equity may also be required,” says the SI.

The directive states that the head of the Procurement Management Unit must be an accounting officer who is charged with the responsibility to put in place a transparent and competitive bidding system.

All accounting officers deployed in ministries and state enterprises are now required to make sure that their departments are spending within the allocated budgets.

“The accounting officer is responsible for scrutinising and approving the respective line Ministry’s budget. In executing this role, accounting officers shall ensure that their budget forecasts fully address the Ministry’s mandate, goals, programmes and the priorities set in the national economic blueprints, and any other policy pronouncements,” said the SI.

All departments and agencies collecting public funds and issuing licences shall now be required to use electronic receipts and handover one copy to the customer while the other copy is filed.

Manual receipt books shall be strictly bought from authorised government printers and receipts confirming such transactions must, in their sequential order, be submitted to the AG.

Where funds are collected manually or electronically, details such as the name of the person transferring funds, national identity number, physical address, phone number and signature where applicable.

“Government Ministries, departments and agencies must make clear what has been done and why it has been done and that public finance system must be directed towards national development, and in particular the burden of taxation must be shared fairly by directing it to the development of Zimbabwe,” the measures add.