THE Ministry of Finance yesterday told Parliament that government had not yet made a decision on whether civil servants will be paid bonuses this year as they needed to consult workers’ representatives first.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
This was disclosed by Finance ministry officials when they appeared before the Felix Mhona-chaired Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Budget and Finance to speak on their ministry’s 2020 budget bids.
The issue of bonuses arose when director of finance in the Finance Ministry, Ignatius Mvere told Parliament that Finance minister Mthuli Ncube would approach Parliament seeking condonation after the ministry was allocated $12,5 million for unallocated reserves, but the ministry spent $1,3 billion instead.
“Our original budget for unallocated reserves (2019) was $12 571 000, but on August 1, 2019, Ncube presented a supplementary budget of $580 million, but as at the end of August — out of that $580 million the ministry had transferred $1,3 billion which means that we overspent by $778 million and I want to believe that this amount will be regularised before the end of the year,” Mvere said.
This did not augur well with MPs who then asked him to explain how the $778 million spent without parliamentary approval.
Acting secretary of the Ministry of Finance Pfungwa Kunaka told MPs that the unauthorised expenditure of $778 million was spent on salaries of civil servants which kept increasing due to inflation.
Chitungwiza North MP Godfrey Sithole then asked him to explain if the changes in the wage bill also meant that civil servants were going to get their bonuses.
“We are operating under austerity measures and what are your plans on civil servants bonuses?” asked Sithole.
The response came from another Ministry of Finance official Hazvineyi Churu who said government did not have a clear position as yet on civil servants bonuses, a month before they are due.
This is despite Ncube in August promising to pay in full the bonuses in November, claiming government had recorded a budgetary surplus.
The MPs then grilled the Ministry of Finance officials over claims that there was a budget surplus in 2019 when Zimbabweans were reeling in poverty.
The legislators also queried the Ministry of Finance’s budget projections saying they did not make sense, and that if the ministry was not careful they will end up bringing a Zimbabwe dollar budget to Parliament which will be eroded by inflation in three months, forcing the ministry to bring a supplementary budget.
Mhona said actually inflation was around 1 200%, stating that for ordinary Zimbabweans the budget surplus claimed by the Ministry of Finance did not make sense if bread which used to cost $0,90 cents now costs $15 a loaf.
Bulawayo Central MP Nicola Watson added: “How do you even claim that you will stabilise the economy with electricity costs that have gone up by 588%? You are claiming that your revenue is going up, yet ordinary citizens are staring at starvation and bread has gone up to $15 and transport and electricity costs keep rising.”
Mvere then told the committee that for 2020, the Ministry of Finance wants an allocation of $3,8 billion, but Treasury had only promised to allocate them $655 million.