Statutory funds open to abuse, MDC-T Legislator

At least a fifth of the $4 billion budget presented by the Finance Minister did not include statutory funds, also consisting of fines paid by motorists at various roadblocks, a Bulawayo Member of Parliament has said.

Eddie Cross made these revelations on the sidelines of a public hearing by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Finance and Economic Development, after being gagged from contributing during proceedings.

Chair of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee David Chapfika disrupted Cross when he was about to reveal that of over $800 million receipted as statutory funds in 2014 and 2015, none had been budgeted for, presenting avenues for misappropriation of state revenue.

Cross said while it is not clear that where the money was used, such practices of having taxpayers money not budgeted for was a fertile ground for corruption and misuse of state coffers.

He said from the initial budgets presented by Minister of Finance Patrick Chinamasa income and expenditure figures showed that the funds exceeding $800 million were not budgeted for.

“In the first 2014 budget the Minister showed the revenue and expenditure of the statutory funds and were shocked to find that over it was over $800 million and in 2015 he did the same.

“$800 million is a lot of money, its 20 % of our national budget and this money is being spent without budget control, without any supervision by line parliamentary committees and it’s very seldom that we see a report on these funds,” he said.

Cross said there had been a consensus that the various statutory funds, which are over 100, be scrapped and all government revenue streams into the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

This has not properly done as the Minister of Finance only ordered that all statutory funds be banked at Reserve Bank, with a call for parastatals to present budgets being ignored.

“We in this committee and other committees started to have a look at these and we urged the minister (Finance) to scrap the statutory funds and to insist that all revenue come in to the Consolidated Revenue Funds.

“He agreed with us that there has to be more control and what he (Chinamasa) has done is to instruct that statutory funds bank with the Reserve Bank, so they monitor the movement of the funds,” he said.

Cross said this was the rationale behind the current consultations over the proposed amendments to the Public Finance Management Bill, which is being amended to bring sanity in the public enterprise sector, riddled with gross mismanagement and pilferage of public funds

“Now he has moved in these amendments to first of all insist that they prepare a budget, up to now they have not done so,” he said.

Adding that, “On top of that, quarterly and half annually they must prepare a financial report which goes to the Permanent Secretary, the Accountant General and the Auditor General, all these funds will be specifically audited by the Auditor general and that all recommendations must be followed.”

Cross applauded Chinamasa for the proactive stance but said line ministries have however insisted that they do not want to remit these funds to the Consolidated Revenue Funds seen as the best way to manage the significant statutory funds.