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Govt must disclose source of $18bn stimulus package, says Biti

by Staff reporter
08 May 2020 at 00:37hrs | Views
FORMER Finance minister Tendai Biti has demanded that government should disclose the source of its proposed $18 billion bailout package for industry, saying he suspected that the offer could be "hot air" to hoodwink struggling local firms.

Biti, who is also chairperson of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee, made the demand yesterday during a virtual meeting organised by the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (Zimcodd).

More than 75 people participated in the meeting, which focused on transparency and accountability in the disbursement of COVID-19 disaster funds.

The virtual meeting was also attended by Norton MP Temba Mliswa, who threatened to expose the son of a Cabinet minister who is selling COVID-19 test kits for US$45 each.

"Where is the $18 billion and the $200 million package coming from? We need to know, because government is broke and does not have money," Biti said.

"We read from the reputable Africa Confidential that Finance minister Mthuli Ncube was begging for money and President Emmerson Mnangagwa himself also made an appeal for US$2,2 billion. We cannot budget on hot air.

"Going forward, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committees on Health, Budget and Finance and the Public Accounts Committee must meet virtually or physically because we are not many.

"The Finance minister (Ncube) must urgently bring before Parliament the $18 billion package for scrutiny. There must be a forensic audit done of all resources donated and used for COVID-19, for example, what were the donations by Jack Ma?"

Biti also blasted the Parliament sitting of May 5, saying that instead of dealing with COVID-19 allocations, it ended up dwelling more on the expulsion of four MDC Alliance legislators.

"We have not been sitting as Parliament and it allows the Executive to do whatever they want. Since January, there are 103 statutory instruments issued on COVID-19 and even as a lawyer, I am battling to understand the plethora of statutory instruments. Parliament is the only body in Zimbabwe that must make laws, and so, closing Parliament during a disaster such as COVID-19 does not make sense when we can hold virtual meetings," Biti fumed.

Mliswa said in terms of accountability, government should disclose names of beneficiaries of COVID-19 donations.

"Very soon, I will tweet about the son of a Cabinet minister selling test kits at US$45. Why not use the test kits received from Higher Life Foundation and Chinese businessman Jack Ma for everyone? We have 100 000 test kits and yet only 5 000 have been tested."

Tafadzwa Kuvheya, a transparency and accountability consultant, said there was need for accountability, efficiency, effectiveness, flexibility, reliability, responsiveness, openness and transparency in the country's response to COVID-19.

Zimcodd executive director Janet Zhou said their analysis of the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 showed that Zimbabwe would need $388,5 million, yet government only managed to raise $280 million.

Source - newsday