THE complaints by the Chinese and the United States over the misrepresentation of development aid figures by the ministry of Finance have raised questions over the state of government’s accounting methods.
Despite claims that it is committed to adopting new accounting methods, government is still lagging after it emerged recently the mismatch between Finance minister Mthuli Ncube’s figures which he revealed in the 2020 National Budget statement and that of the Chinese government on developmental aid is US$136 million.
In his budget presentation, Ncube said Zimbabwe got over US$3,6 million from China under the development partner support received through bilateral channels.
“This is very different from the actual situation on the ground,” the Chinese embassy said in a statement.
“In the meantime, the embassy has noted that in the statement, among development partner support received by the Zimbabwean government through bilateral channels, the figure of bilateral support provided by China to Zimbabwe is US$3 631 500. This is very different from the actual situation on the ground,” the statement read.
The embassy said its records showed that from January to September 2019, the actual bilateral support provided to Zimbabwe by China was US$136,8 million.
“Such a figure does not include the other bilateral supports as the expense of expert assistance, embassy donations to local vulnerable groups and so on,” the statement said.
This week the United States also pointed out that there is disparity in the figures by government on developmental aid.“They recently released the total amount of money that we gave in 2019 it was about US$330 million. So, it was a bit more than it was in the budget report, that’s the total amount that includes our work with PEPFAR (U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for aids Relief). It includes work that we have provided this year for food relief, people who are faced with food insecurity because of the drought and other causes. It also includes the assistance that was given to people who suffered the consequences of Cyclone Idai.
“So, putting all the numbers together it was over US$330 million this year,” Hastings said in an interview. “Well, it’s important to include all of the programmes and that’s why we recently put the information out there to make sure that the total amount of our assistance was made on to the people of Zimbabwe.”
This comes after auditor general Mildred Chiri spoke out about the state of accounts records of all government departments. This made it impossible for her to make a correct assessment of the expenditure by the various ministries.
An example is her 2012 audit report presented to parliament in which Chiri observed improper maintenance of accounting records, diversion of resources from funds to parent ministries and reconciliations of the sub-paymaster general accounts. Seven years later in 2019, Chiri has been singing the same song.
Chiri told journalists earlier this year that after going through the accounting records of all government departments, she was unable to give her stamp of approval regarding the accuracy of expenditure patterns. Government books remain in shambles, creating a heaven for criminal activities, she said.
However government officials who spoke to businessdigest said that they have adopted Government Financial Statistics 2014 (GFS2014) and Common Functions of Government (COFOG) national income accounting and statistical reporting frameworks starting with the 2020 budget
“We have also implemented Public Finance Management System enhancement project and programme based budgeting framework. We no longer just lump up unrelated figures,” a senior official said.
Economist Prosper Chitambara said the queries over developmental figures will create suspicion and lack of trust.
“It could be the lack of capacity of by officials in the ministry of Finance, it could be deliberate or it could be that the parties are using different accounting methodologies,” Chitambara said.
“However what it does is that it creates an element of mistrust if development partners are not being handled properly. It affects credibility and trust.”