THE cash-strapped Zimbabwe government will splurge close to US$15 million on luxury cars for its 355 legislators at a time government is struggling to pay salaries for civil servants, the Zimbabwe Independent has learnt.
By Elias Mambo
Sources close to the development said talks were at an advanced stage, with MPs set to get loans to purchase vehicles locally instead of importing them.
“We had a meeting this morning (Wednesday) on the issue and it is increasingly clear that each legislator will be given a US$30 000 car loan to purchase vehicles locally,” said one MP.
“We have had a series of meetings which also discussed allowances and salaries.”
This comes at a time MPs are failing to perform key duties, including visiting constituencies and carrying out fact-finding missions outside Harare, amid revelations they have gone for six months without allowances and other benefits.
The MPs are yet to receive sitting allowances amounting to US$1,4 million since parliament opened last September.
They have also gone for weeks without fuel coupons, a situation that has limited their visits to constituencies.
In an unprecedented move last month government failed to pay its workers on time, postponing the pay date by three days — a sign of a worsening financial crisis.
A few months ago government spent close to US$20 million on luxury cars, including Mercedes Benz and SUVs for 26 cabinet ministers, 13 ministers of state and 24 deputies. Zanu PF chief whip Joram Gumbo said the delay in financing the parliamentary vehicle scheme will cause problems because it will affect the repayment period.
“We have had meetings with the Ministry of Finance and we are worried the delay in disbursing the fund will affect the repayment period which normally ends at the sunset of each parliament lifespan,” Gumbo said.
“Government has not increased the loan, which is currently capped at US$30 000.”
Zimbabwe’s bicameral parliament has 350 legislators with 210 elected into the National Assembly (lower house), which also has 60 females who make up the women’s quota, while the upper house is made up of 80 Senators and five non-constituency members appointed by the president.
Government bought top of the range Mercedes Benz E350 sedans and Toyota Land Cruisers VX200 for ministers and their deputies.
Last year the bloated parliament abruptly adjourned amid reports parliamentarians in both Houses were gobbling up at least US$200 000 per week in sitting allowances and accommodation.
Sources said the adjournment was a desperate measure to cut expenditure which the parliament has already incurred since the opening of the Eighth Parliament.
“If both houses sit it means 355 legislators will require sitting allowances close to US$79 000 per week with 271 legislators requiring hotel accommodation at an average amount of US$108 000,” said one legislator.