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Storm as Finance Ministry overshoots budget by US$10.6 billion in 3 years

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By Anna Chibamu


THE Tendai Biti-led Public Accounts Parliamentary Portfolio committee on Friday advised Finance ministry officials to complete the legality of its overspending of US$10.6 billion from 2015-2018 before parliament approves its Financial Adjustment Bill.

Members of the committee grilled the officials on why they had not complied with the law which says a Condonation Bill must be introduced in the national assembly without delay and in any event, not later than 60 days.

“You have brought us a Financial Adjustment Bill in respect of which you seek condonation of US$10.6 billion over-expenditure of 2015-2018,” Biti said.

“You have brought this Bill in terms of Section 307 of the Constitution.

“However, Section 307 Sub-Section (2) of the constitution says a Condonation Bill must be introduced into parliament within 60 days.

“Why are you bringing this Bill years after over-expenditure? You failed your duties. Why did you not bring the bill within 60 days and you knew about these deficits?”

The officials, who included government’s Accountant General Edwin Zvandasara, Chief Director Expenditure Management Pfungwa Kunaka and three others agreed they were found wanting due to incapacitation caused by several changes within the ministry.

“We take note of the concern. We tender our sincere apologies on the delays,” Kunaka said.

“We are agreeing that as a ministry, we were found wanting.

“We do confirm with the statutory provision that once we exceed our budget, we have to present ourselves to parliament within 60 days. This was a lapse on our part.”

The Accountant General, Zvandasara also apologised to the committee admitting failure.

“Chairman, l want to accept that there was a lapse in that respect. I want to apologise for that.

“It was on account of changes that have taken place within the ministry. We have lost a lot of skills capacity,” he said.

Biti was not convinced by the responses and he further demanded answers as to how the money used.

“You have just given us a figure. It is known. As part of the bill, how was the money spent?”

Kunaka then requested for a ministerial statement by Finance minister Mthuli Ncube to explain further on how they used the US$10.6 billion in four consecutive years.

In one year alone, the budget was exceeded by US$3.5 billion according to the Auditor General’s report.

Biti dismissed the ministerial statement request.

“A ministerial statement is not a legal instrument. It is just a clarification statement by a minister to the house.

“For now, you have nothing for us to condone. This is a non-existent Bill.

“How do u expect us to go and present an essentially non-existent Bill? Your document cannot stand the scrutiny of a Condonation Bill.

“You have not yet started, there is no breakdown of figures, no disaggregation and no detail. We cannot just condone figures,” Biti told the officials.