Shakeman Mugari/Blessing Zulu
LESS than two months into the year, six ministries are already in trouble after they exhausted their budget allocations, the Zimbabwe Independent head this week.
Last Thursday, a number of cabinet ministers were reportedly involved in a marathon budget meeting where they are understood to have discussed the plight of ministries that had overshot their budget votes.
The situation has been compounded by the introduction of three more portfolios that were unbudgeted for by then minister of Finance and Economic Development, Herbert Murerwa. The ministers of state for Policy Implementation (Webster Shamu) and Indigenisation and Empowerment (Josiah Tungamirai) come into offices without budgets.
Also unaccounted for is the new portfolio of Anti-Corruption and Anti-Monopolies (Didymus Mutasa).
The new department heads will require a fully-fledged office, personnel and the usual expensive cars.
Ministries in dire straits include Health, Labour, Defence, Home Affairs and Education. The ministry of Youth, Gender and Employment Creation has also exceeded its budget allocation for this year. The six ministries, which are central to government operations, are understood to have applied to the Finance ministry for more funds to supplement their empty coffers.
The Ministry of Labour is the most seriously affected with revelations this week that July Moyo’s former ministry was sinking into debt. The ministry is faced with a massive wage bill. In his budget presentation last year, Murerwa allocated $3,18 trillion to the Public Service Commission, an amount which sources say did not take into account the January windfall given to civil servants.
The precarious situation has been aggravated by the fact that the civil servants are demanding an additional 400% salary adjustment. The situation has forced government to review its salaries for doctors. The Labour ministry is understood to be making final touches to its supplementary budget that they intend to present to government in the next three weeks. The Youth ministry, used to train the notorious green bombers, has been hit by desertions due to food shortages in the camps.
The sharp increase in the cost of drugs has seen the Health ministry struggling to acquire essential supplies. In a bid to retain staff the Health and Education Ministries have been forced to increase salaries and allowances to staff thereby overshooting their budgets. The Home Affairs ministry has reportedly gone on a spending spree acquiring more vehicles. According to sources the new fleet of vehicles is unbudgeted for.
Most of these ministries were already in arrears when the budget was announced last year. Analysts predict that another trillion-dollar supplementary budget is likely to be announced before June. This flies in the face of Murerwa’s demand that ministries should live within their means in the current fiscal year.
“Unbudgeted expenditures will only be restricted to national emergencies. Ministries will be expected to live within their budget provisions,” said Murerwa in the budget statement.
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono also made clear in his policy statement that the central bank would not tolerate excessive expenditure by government ministries. He said fiscal discipline is important in the fight against inflation. The upcoming supplementary budget would exacerbate the budget deficit as government goes on a borrowing spree to quench its increasing thirst for funds.
Zimbabwe’s domestic debt stood at $574,5 billion and is threatening to increase further if the government bulges to accommodate new ministries.
The Independent could not obtain a comment from Murerwa who referred the paper to his successor Christopher Kuruneri.