By Miriam Mangwaya

LACK of transparency in the budget formulation process has stifled public debate on the 2021 proposed budget, Transparency Zimbabwe International (TI-Z) reports.

The TI-Z report comes after the Finance and Economic Development ministry failed to abide by the set timeline as outlined in Statutory Instrument 135 of 2019, to ensure the Pre-Budget Strategy Paper is released on time to the public.

In its latest report tilted The Pre-Budget Strategy Paper: A Transparency and Accountability Perspective, TI-Z noted that the Finance ministry failed to provide the necessary information to allow public participation by launching the 2021 Pre-Budget Strategy Paper on the last day of the budget consultations rolled on 12-16 October 2020.

This, according to TI-Z, was contrary to government’s claims that it was committed to ensure public participation in policy implementation.

The policy document, which provides broad parameters to be pursued by the government on the basis of available resources within a fiscal year, helps citizens to make informed decisions on how the government should spend public funds.

“Time is of essence not just in the release of a Pre-Budget Strategy Paper but rather throughout the national budget process from formulation to approval, implementation and audit.

Transparency and accountability form the basis of good governance and it should remain the cornerstone of good public finance management as provided in the Zimbabwean Constitution,” TI-Z said in the paper.

The watchdog cited corruption as one of the major factors that was preventing government from fully disclosing budget information and clarify on the use of public funds to promote accountability.

TI-Z also noted that the Pre-Budget Strategy Paper ignored the call for reforms on legislative and supportive framework in the mining sector to curb illicit financial flows through
smuggling.

Says TI-Z: “There seems to be a drawback in the interest to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. The government must ensure that the proposed Mines and Minerals Act provides for transparency and accountability along the mineral value chain.”

TI-Z said it was of the view that while the government was making efforts to decentralise power through devolution to enable bottom-up communication processes, it had failed to give citizens at the grassroots level enough information for them to participate in policy making.

TI-Z urged government to guard against corruption and violation of public procurement regulations, to achieve a successful budget.

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