BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA
ZIMBABWE’S parliament wants a huge say in the way government will distribute a nearly US$1 billion windfall injected recently into the economy by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The windfall, part of a US$650 billion special drawing rights (SDR) pumped into member states to re-ignite consumer demand after Covid–19-induced hard lockdowns frustrated consumer spending, has attracted widespread attention, with Zimbabweans demanding transparency and accountability.
How President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s cash strapped government will handle the big package will determine future relations with international financiers, who have held back billions after sustained defaults in the past 21 years.
“Parliament must ensure SDR resources are shared sustainably and equitably between provincial and local tiers of government as provided for under Section 301 and Section 298 of the constitution,” parliament said in a fact sheet on the SDRs.
“Section 299 empowers parliament to exercise an oversight role over the work of the executive, particularly, ensuring that all revenue is accounted for, all expenditure has been properly incurred and any limits and conditions on appropriations have been observed.
“This provision read together with the standing order 20, empowers the various portfolio committees to monitor, investigate, inquire into and make recommendations relating to any aspect of the legislative programme, budget, policy or any other matter it may consider relevant to the government department falling within the category of affairs.”
A plan released by government last month said the package will be used to fund production in industries through revolving facilities, build critical infrastructure and give hospitals and schools facelifts.
More schools will be built in every province, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube said, noting that the funding would be crucial in stabilising the free-falling domestic currency.
Sectors hardest hit by Covid–19-induced lockdowns would receive maximum attention as Ncube and his team works to revive an economy that slowed by 4% as the pandemic ripped through the country last year.
According to the fact sheet, the legislature is required, through the committee on public accounts to examine the sums granted by parliament to meet the public expenditure.
“The post-audit committee has the responsibility to scrutinise how the SDR funds were utilised and table a report in parliament,” the fact sheet reads.
Ncube has said as part of efforts to be transparent, the SDR funds would be guarded by three top bankers, who will report to Mnangagwa monthly.
However, concerns have been raised over the country’s ability to deploy the funding to productive use, given high-level corruption.
Speaking during an economic review webinar organised by the Zimbabwe Independent, Ncube vowed to observe the highest levels of transparency.
“We received just below US$1 billion in SDRs so as I speak because we haven’t used a cent at all, they just count as reserves. So, in principle we have about US$1 billion, which is supporting reserves and obviously, as we draw down, we use that on development,” the Treasury boss said.
“But whatever is unused still remains to be accounted for as part of the country’s reserves. SDRs are accounted for as reserves so any point in time we are supporting the reserves build up agenda. But over time we will obviously invest in these development projects only up to a point where then the remainder is kept behind in SDR form to bolster our reserves and any other contingency funding required in the future.”
He said government has formed an implementation committee chaired by Ncube, a banker, Finance secretary George Guvamatanga, a former Barclays Bank managing director and central bank governor John Mangudya.