IN a desperate bid to stamp his authority in the running of the economy and to further centralise power, President Mugabe is taking a greater immediate role in the running of government b
usiness, with key decisions having to come from his office.
Military and intelligence personnel have assumed a larger presence in virtually all ministries to monitor compliance with presidential directives.
The Office of the President now embraces two state ministries of Policy Implementation and Interactive Affairs. It also includes the Central Intelligence Organisation and the Department of Planning.
The extended roles of the Office of the President were spelt out last week in Finance minister Herbert Murerwa’s mid-term fiscal policy statement.
This, economic analysts say, will add to red tape as decision-making gets more centralised.
The Office of the President has taken over the role of approving foreign currency allocation for imports of vehicles and other requirements by public institutions “to reduce unnecessary forex outlays”.
Mugabe’s office will now assume the responsibility of project monitoring together with the Public Service Commission (PSC) and the Audit Inspectorate. The team is currently visiting all provinces to check on progress on projects.
The President’s Office will also work with the Auditor-General’s office and the PSC to audit the public service which is believed to be full of ghost workers. The audit will also probe government’s pensions bill which, according to Murerwa, has been experiencing “phenomenal growth”.
The office will also take measures to curb abuse of government assets such as housing, phones, motor vehicles, domestic and foreign travel and subsistence allowances.
The pairing of the Office of the President and the Auditor-General’s office, analysts say, raises ethical concerns. The Auditor-General’s role is to audit government departments and parastatals, hence it should work independently.
Murerwa’s statement also says Mugabe’s office will consult with treasury and the State Procurement Board to expedite public procurement. They will “review the whole public sector tendering system with a view to making appropriate recommendations to cabinet, in order to address the many challenges in the tendering process”.
Economist, Dr Daniel Ndlela, warned that the concentration of decision-making in Mugabe’s office would lead to red tape, consolidate political hegemony and patronage.
“They are destroying the economic space for economic actors,” he said.