Zimbabwe: Biti Fumes As Finance Ministry Officials Dodge Committee Hearings Fourth Time

Parliament's  Public Accounts committee chair, Tendai Biti Monday threatened to take action against finance ministry officials who failed to attend hearings for the fourth time.

An irate Biti warned his committee will write to Clerk of Parliament, Kennedy Chokuda to charge director Pfungwa Kunaka, acting accountant general Edwin Zvandasara and one deputy accountant general Takavarasha if they do not abide by committee orders to attend business on 20 July, 2020.

Biti was speaking in a media briefing after the committee's deliberations on the officials' absenteeism from hearings on the Financial Adjustment Bill.

"We would like to express our extreme disappointment at their continued disrespect of this committee by finance ministry," said the MDC legislator.

"We express extreme reservation on their conduct this time around because we are dealing with their Financial Adjustment Bill (FAB), in respect of which they are asking for condonation on over-spending US$10.6 billion without parliament approval.

"One would have thought that where one is seeking condonation and forgiveness, the behaviour also shows restraint and contrition," said Biti.

Biti said the absentee officials had shown disrespect for his committee.

He said finance ministry officials last Friday emailed Chokuda regarding previous issues discussed "for both parties to seek legal redress on the FAB matter" and that the Attorney General's opinion was not yet ready.

The ministry also gave the excuse of the upcoming Mid-Term Policy Review which is to be presented soon.

However, Biti dismissed both excuses.

"We do not accept the explanation that AG is not ready because our discussion was beyond the legal issue. It had purely accounting issues.

"We are not happy with the attitude of the finance ministry towards parliament business," said Biti, also former finance minister.

Biti gave a warning to the officials.

"In the event that Mr Zvandasara, Mr Kunaka and Mr Takavarasha fail to appear before this committee on 20 July, 2020, we will direct Mr Chokuda to issue a warrant in terms of Parliamentary Procedures Act."

He also demanded that the officials provide a timeframe and roadmap in which the ministry will sit in separate votes whose defaults and over expenditure is captured in the AFB.

Biti demanded to know when the ministry was going to prepare new books of accounts covering the default as captured in the FAB.

Also to be included was when those books will be tabled through the finance ministry to the Public Accounts Committee for onward transmission to the Auditor General for a new audit over expenditure for 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Lastly, an agreement on how the ministry would do the Appropriation Bill as well as the legal issue on which both parties (PAC and Finance ministry) are seeking an opinion.

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