HARARE – Finance minister Patrick Chinamnasa was on Tuesday taken to task by parliamentarians for understating the country’s budget deficit and violating the Constitution in many areas of fiscal management.
MDC legislator Eddie Cross said the $700 million budget deficit envisaged by Chinamasa was at variance and the parliamentary committee on Finance’s $1,9 billion deficit forecast.
“The reason for that is the figures we have from the Blue Book do not tally in some respects with the figures he gave us in his budget statement,” Cross said while debating the 2018 National Budget in the National Assembly on Tuesday.
“This is something that needs clarity. But I point out to the House that in 2016, the technical budget deficit of the country was $1,4 billion. It can be reduced slightly to one billion dollars, we remove certain components in the budget deficit, but from a technical or fiscal stand point, the budget deficit in 2016 was $1,4 billion,” added Cross, who is also a member of the parliamentary Finance committee chaired by David Chapfika.
Cross further indicated that the committee believe that the budget deficit in 2017 was closer to $2,2 billion as opposed to $1,7 billion.
“This constitutes a very substantial proportion of the gross domestic product (GDP) and it explains why we have a cash shortage. It is the key problem which confronts the minister at this moment and time,” he said.
The committee also said Chinamasa was in violation of the Constitution for non-observance of debt restrictions and requirements in disclosure to the Parliament.
“We are in fact in violation of the maximum overdraft that the government can hold at the Reserve Bank. This should have been reported to the House and the condonation of the House should have been sought,” he said.
“The question of providing resources for the implementation of the devolution exercise provided for in the Constitution Section 264 has not been made.”
According to the parliamentary Finance committee, provision of five percent of gross revenue for local authorities, Section under 301 has not been met.
“This is the fourth year in which this violation has occurred. In addition to that, the minister has an obligation under the Constitution to introduce a Bill to the National Assembly seeking condonation of unauthorised expenditure without delay and in any event, no later than 60 days after the extent of the unauthorised expenditure has been established and that is under Section 307.
“Furthermore, he has failed to introduce supplementary Appropriation Bill in the House providing for the issuance of the necessary funds from the Consolidated Revenue Fund and to close the gap caused by insufficient Appropriation Funds, Section 305 of the Constitution and Section 19 of the Public Finance Management Act.
“Finally, Mr Speaker Sir, we are concerned that we are in violation of the principle in the Constitution, that all revenues of the State should be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund and only where a specific Act of Parliament requires or permits them to be paid into some other funds established for a specific purpose, that is Section 302 (b) of the Constitution.
“We feel that these violations of the Constitution require his urgent attention. Mr Speaker Sir, I do not think that the House should condone these kinds of poor performance against established legislation, especially the Constitution,” Cross said.