ZIMBABWE’S new government, comprising 26 cabinet ministers and 24 deputies, three ministers of state, 10 provincial ministers of state, provincial councils for each of the 10 provinces, 275 MPs (including five non-constituency members) and 80 senators, is expected to weigh heavily on the struggling fiscus.
While the cost may be difficult to quantify in exact terms, calculations show over US$1 billion will be spent on their upkeep.
Cabinet ministers each normally receive three expensive state-of-the-art vehicles for their official use.Generally, a minister is entitled to a Mercedes Benz ranging from the E300, which car dealers are selling for between US$115 000 and US$120 000, to an E350 which costs about US$130 000.
Senior ministers receive a Mercedes-Benz S350 which costs about US$180 000.
In addition, each of the ministers gets a sport utility vehicle (SUV), among these a Land Rover Discovery whose price range is US$85 000-US$140 000 depending on specifications, Range Rover Evoque which is between US$110 000 and US$120 000, Range Rover Sport (US$125 000-US$165 000) and the Range Rover Vogue (US$220 000—US$280 000).
Most of these vehicles are fuel guzzlers. Some ministers and senior government officials are also allocated off-roaders, including Toyota Landcruiser VX 200 V8V which cost approximately US$140 000 and Toyota Hilux 4×4 double cabs which cost about US$60 000.
Deputy ministers are normally allocated SUVs such as Jeep Cherokees which cost between US$100 000 and US$110 000.
Last year, MPs were allocated US$30 000 each to purchase vehicles and, assuming the allocation remains unchanged, government will spend about US$11 million on vehicles for the 355 members of the House of Assembly and Senate.
Government will also face large hotel bills when parliament is sitting, given that it pays for accommodation of legislators who reside outside Harare.
As a result of the proportional representation system, MPs have increased from 210 in the previous parliament to 275 this year, including five appointed ones.
Members of provincial councils will also receive vehicles and other perks and so will the 10 provincial ministers of state, adding to the huge government expenditure
Government officials, including President Robert Mugabe, also have a penchant for travelling abroad, often at a huge cost due to bloated delegations.
In his 2012 national budget statement, former Finance minister Tendai Biti revealed foreign travel blew US$45,5 million in 2011.
Biti also told MPs in July last year that government officials had spent US$157 million on foreign travel since 2009.