Finance Minister Tendai Biti has said the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has approved a request by the cash strapped Zimbabwean government to fund the forthcoming polls, although he said the Zimbabwe Election Commission and the police had submitted 'extremely high and unreasonable' budgets.
Biti and Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa had written to the UNDP asking for an estimated $250 million for the purposes of administering the constitutional referendum and general election, scheduled for this year.
The Finance Minister told SW Radio Africa on Tuesday that the government had received 'a very favourable response and we are now acting on the things that they have requested.'
Biti said he could not publicly divulge what has been requested or how much money Zimbabwe will receive. However he revealed that the Zimbabwe Election Commission had put forward budgets that were unrealistic, with the original budget in excess of US$500 million and the second one over $300million.
He said experts from the two ministries were now in the process of reconciling the correct figures with ZEC, "to come up with a credible and legitimate budget that is sellable to everyone, to the Ministry of Finance, to parliament and to the international community."
Biti said various people who will work in the election process were asking huge per diem rates. Some were asking to be paid as much as $70 per day.
"Another cause for concern was the request from the Zimbabwe Republic Police. In the original budget it was so clear that the police were now intending to capitalize on...the elections - which is not proper," Biti added.
"So what Minister Chinamasa and I have chosen to do is to micro-analyse and micro-audit the budgets that are coming from the Zimbabwe Election Commission with a view of coming up with a reasonable and legitimate figure."
The police alone were asking for $180 million. Some media reports say that ZEC requests included $1 million for indelible ink and at least $11 million for voter education, adding to suspicions that the figures were highly inflated.
We could not reach ZEC officials for comment.
Meanwhile, cabinet ministers who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the UNDP does not actually have the money but will coordinate the donor community to pledge money to sponsor the Zimbabwe polls. The donors, who include the United States and the European Union, have made certain conditions for funding the elections, such as allowing EU observers.
The sources said if the donors put money it will be for the referendum first and then they will consider funding the general elections, if Zimbabwe implements the election roadmap and there is an end to human rights abuses.
Ordinarily ZANU PF would not agree to any conditions, but it is believed that President Robert Mugabe and his party will probably agree to some demands as some observers say they are 'desperate' to have the elections before the United Nations World Tourism Organisation conference in August.