Zimbabwe: Govt Blew Us$13.2b in Three Years - Biti

OUTSPOKEN MDC Alliance Vice President Tendai Biti has accused the government of pillaging a staggering US$13.2 billion between 2017 and 2019 through unauthorised expenditure.

Biti made the allegations while commenting on the recent report released by Auditor-General Mildred Chiri for the financial year ended December 31, 2019, on Appropriation Accounts and Fund Accounts.

Describing the use of the government funds as "unprecedented and unacceptable", the former Finance Minister added; "Used wisely $13.2 billion can transform Zimbabwe into an upper middle tier economy in a short period of time."

The AG's report has damning details on how government departments, parastatals, local councils, and other state entities looted public funds running into billions of dollars through various channels.

Chiri's report further reveals President Emmerson Mnangagwa's administration gobbled nearly $7 billion in unauthorised expenditure in 2019.

She attributed this to lack of accountability in government ministries exposing high-level corruption, and maladministration that is at the heart of the government's financial management system.

"During the year under review, Treasury incurred unauthorised excess expenditure amounting to $6 806 340 654 as a result of unallocated reserve transfers made to line ministries amounting to $7 386 995 654. This exceeded the approved budget of $580 655 000 in contravention of section 305(5) of the Constitution," the Auditor-General's report reads in part.

"Treasury as the manager of the public purse did not adhere to legal provisions on the sanctioning of excess expenditure by Parliament.

"Furthermore, I noted some variances between the schedule of unallocated reserve transfers from Treasury and the received transfer schedules of the same from the individual line ministries and the variances needed to be reconciled. I raised this issue in my prior year reports and the matter is recurring."

The AG also said the Finance Ministry headed by Mthuli Ncube, made direct payments to various ministries without proper documentation, a situation that was open to manipulation.

However, commenting on Chiri's latest report, Biti said the Auditor-General's statement confirmed the level of corruption in government was "unprecedented and unacceptable".

"The 2019 Auditor General's statement confirms what we have always known. That Mnangagwa regime is a rogue regime pillaging national resources. The theft and unauthorised expenditure of US$7 billion is criminal and requires forensic examination," he said.

"Unacceptable that with such poverty, billions are being spent from the state by a deranged kleptomania. US$2.7 billion was stolen in 2017, US$3,5 billion in 2018, (and) now US$7 billion in 2019 bringing (the) total to US$13.2 billion. Used wisely $13.2 billion can transform Zimbabwe into an upper middle tier economy in a short period of time."

Biti added: "The levels of looting under Emmerson are unprecedented and unacceptable in a country where 95% are unemployed and 79% live in extreme poverty. Zimbabwe joins rank of worst kakistocracies such as Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo) under Mobutu (Sese Seko), Nigeria under (Sani) Abasha, The Philippines under (Ferdinand) Marcos and CAR (Central Africa Republic) under (Jean-Bedel) Bokassa."

In her report, Chiri said the 2019 audit findings revealed most weaknesses emanated from governance issues and absence of good stewardship.

"The audit findings warrant the attention of management and those charged with governance. The audit revealed that most of the weaknesses emanated from governance issues. Most governance issues cantered on absence of good stewardship over public resources.

"I envisage a situation where the performance of State Enterprises and Parastatals will greatly improve if my recommendations and provisions of the said act are implemented. My office remains committed to working tirelessly within my mandate to promote transparency and accountability in State enterprises and parastatals."

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