THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has received US$31,5 million from Treasury to cover the constitutional referendum slated for Saturday.
ZEC acting chairperson Mrs Joyce Kazembe, who is holding fort while waiting for recently appointed acting chairperson and Supreme Court Judge
Rita Makarau to take over, yesterday confirmed receipt of the money.
She said the commission reduced its budget for the referendum from US$85 million to US$58 million.
"Yes, we have received that amount from Treasury and the outstanding balance of US$26,5 million is for allowances of the polling officers.
"There are some other things that we removed from our initial budget. We did that working together with Treasury."
Mrs Kazembe did not disclose some of the provisions they removed from their budget.
Addressing journalists in Harare yesterday, Finance Minister Tendai Biti said the funds disbursed to ZEC were enough to cover essential costs of the referendum.
"We have essentially covered the core costs that will allow the referendum to take place on Saturday, the ink and the 'Yes' and 'No' vote ballot paper.
"From that point of view, we are ready for the referendum. The bulk of what we have not covered is largely the allowances of the people who will be manning the polling stations," he said.
Minister Biti said it was important to streamline the referendum budget as they considered the US$85 million to be excessive.
"Government recognises the need for us to operate within our own means with regards to the referendum.
"Critical to this is managing expectations by our departments and personnel in the areas of allowance payment, period of engagement and sparing on procurement of goods and services.
"A combination of measures to rationalise payment of allowances, containing the period of activities and personnel requirements to the barest minimum will reduce next week's referendum requirements to under US$75 million."
Minister Biti said they had come up with other means of raising additional funds for the referendum and harmonised elections such as issuance of Treasury Bills to NSSA and Old Mutual.
He said issuance of the Treasury Bills should immediately raise US$40 million from the two financial institutions.
Minister Biti said they were also expecting a substantial amount from diamond companies where Government is a shareholder in form of tax, pay as you earn (PAYE) and value added tax (VAT).
He said Government reviewed upwards excise duty on fuel with at least 25 percent to raise funds for the polls.
"This measure took effect from midnight of March 1 2013 and the necessary Statutory Instrument was gazetted," he said.
Minister Biti said Government was hoping to get more funding for referendum and harmonised elections from telecommunications licensing renewal.
"The Ministry of Transport, Communications and Infrastructure Development will from 30 June 2013 issue new 15-year licences under the Converged Licensing Framework at a fee of US$180 million."
Although he claimed that he met with President Mugabe and Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa and agreed to engage the international community over poll funding, Government sources said the option had since been dropped.
This was after noting some of the conditions that were being attached by donors under the cover of the United Nations. As preparations for the referendum gather momentum, more than 70 000 polling officers are set to be deployed to various stations tomorrow ahead of the poll on Saturday.
Mrs Kazembe yesterday said the polling officers, who include supervisors, would be deployed at 9 449 polling stations countrywide.
The referendum polling officers started training yesterday in all the provinces and are expected to complete the course today ahead of deployment.
ZEC officials are conducting the training.
"What we call referendum polling officers are being trained at various command centres beginning today and they will be deployed to their stations beginning Wednesday," Mrs Kazembe said.
The polling officers have been drawn from the civil service, parastatals and local authorities.
When The Herald visited various command centres in Harare yesterday, ZEC officials were busy training the polling officers.
The situation was the same in other provinces where the training started without any hitches.
"Teachers will be part of the exercise, but we will take a limited number because the school calendar is on-going and there should be not much disruption in the schools," said Mrs Kazembe.
"Teachers will, where necessary, complement other polling officers from other civil service departments, parastatals and local authorities."
Most of the schools would be used as polling stations and traditionally used to close during voting.
The electoral body has printed 12 million ballots for the referendum.
After the referendum, the country will head for elections on a date yet to be announced.
International observers for the referendum continued to arrive in the country with a 40-member team from the Sadc Parliamentary Forum jetting in yesterday.
The team is led by Prince Guduza Dlamini, the Speaker of the National Assembly of Swaziland and will deploy its teams to the 10 provinces beginning tomorrow.
Sadc PF said in a statement that the team comprises of parliamentarians from Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zambia.
The mission will hold an official opening session this morning, followed by an orientation and training session for delegates to acquaint themselves with the context and environment the referendum would be held under0.
The team will leave Zimbabwe on March 19 after compiling and issuing out its interim report.