The government, which is struggling to pay civil servants this month, is set to splash a staggering $11 million on vehicles for lawmakers to the country's 8th Parliament, officials revealed Wednesday.
In a murky arrangement between Parliament's sub-committee on the welfare of MPs and a local car dealer, legislators will take delivery of Ford Ranger vehicles, with the most pricey going for about $35,000.
A meeting of Parliament's inter-party caucus Wednesday decided to give the parliamentary vehicle loan scheme the green light, sources close to the deal said.
"We have already taken pro-forma invoices for the cars and can choose either a single cab, double cab or king cab. We should have the cars anytime from now but everything is in place now," said a legislator who asked not to be named.
According to sources, Wednesday's meeting also heard that allowances payable to legislators had been reduced from $75 to $40 with immediate effect.
Zanu PF legislator Jorum Gumbo who chairs Parliament's welfare committee confirmed the development.
"We have agreed that MPs can buy vehicles on loan from one supplier (Croco Motors) who has agreed to give them vehicles on delayed payment because at the moment Government has no money," said Gumbo.
Under the deal, the MPs were exempted from paying duty and value added tax.
"Government was supposed to pay a deposit for these vehicles but because there is no money and the dealer has agreed to give out the vehicles on loan, MPs can only get the Ford make that Croco Motors has agreed to supply.
"If they want any other make then it means Government will have to pay deposit so that Croco Motors can pay for those vehicles. But at the moment that will be difficult because Government has already indicated that it has no money," said Gumbo.
With MPs guaranteed fuel supply from the government, the purchase of the off-road gas-monsters is likely to put further strain on an administration reeling from a debilitating liquidity crunch and poor economic performance.
In 2009 government, which still owes legislators from the last Parliament huge sums in unpaid allowances, had to write off a $4 million debt accrued after the purchase of double cab vehicles during the hyper-inflationary era.
The coalition government, seemingly insensitive to the economic crisis the country was going through, went ahead with the vehicle purchases.
Now President Robert Mugabe's government has guaranteed another $11 million splurge at a time it has failed to pay sitting allowances to lawmakers since last August.
Government reportedly spent about $6 million recently to buy 100 luxury Range Rovers with critics arguing Cabinet should show confidence in the local industry by buying locally to support the Buy-Zimbabwe Campaign launched last year.
Zimbabwe's country's largest car assembly plant is currently struggling under the weight of crippling debt and declining sales which have put 210 jobs at risk.
For the second month in a row government, a few days ago, announced it was deferring the civil servants pay date, in a development observers said, showed there was no money for the salaries.
A defiant Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa told Parliament Wednesday that government workers should count themselves "lucky" that they were still getting paid.