CIVIL society groups have called on the government to establish an independent national debt audit to ensure transparency in accordance with the African Borrowing Charter.
Like the rest of African countries, Zimbabwe is saddled with a huge debt overhang and efforts are currently being made by the government to address the debt question.
The country’s total public debt (external and domestic), including Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) debt, was estimated at $10,97 trillion as at end of September last year.
Of the total, external public and publicly guaranteed debt accounts for 79,6% ($8,7 trillion), including blocked funds 13,2% ($1,5 trillion) and domestic debt representing the balance at 20% ($2,2 trillion).
The amount for the compensation of former farm owners, $2,18 trillion (US$3,5 billion), represents a significant share of domestic debt at 97%.
A communique concluding the three-day debt conference held in Harare recently outlined a raft of recommendations to be implemented by the government to address the debt issue.
“We are also concerned by the sluggish pace in the enactment of the Public Finance Management Amendment Bill, rampant corruption weakening efforts of leveraging on domestic resource mobilisation as an alternative to finance development and depending less on external borrowing,” the paper read in part.
“There is evident correlation of debt and corruption in Zimbabwe contributing to debt unsustainability, inefficiencies and leakages within the public procurement system, trust and confidence deficit in fiscal and monetary policies, slow implementation of resolutions and commitments by the global north towards climate financing. Debt justice is not possible without climate justice.”
In response to these concerns, the parties recommended an independent national debt audit and strengthening system and institutions to uphold debt transparency guided by the African Borrowing Charter.
The paper said there was a need for expediting the enactment of the Mines and Minerals Bill, ensuring principles and aspirations of the Africa Mining Vision, especially those that touch on improved revenue collection are incorporated.
It added that there was also a need to align all laws governing public finance management with the Constitution of Zimbabwe including the Public Finance Management Act, the Public Debt Management Act, and the Finance Act, among others.
The paper urged the government to promote the formulation and implementation of progressive tax policies including a tax incentive framework for foreign and domestic investors.
It should review and strengthen public procurement laws to achieve value for money in mega infrastructure projects.
“Institute lifestyle audits for public servants to minimise graft and corruption in the government sector,” the communique read.
The civil society organisations also recommended strengthening and upholding the oversight role of Parliament in public finance management — legislating the requirement for prior parliamentary approval for all government loans is an urgent imperative.
They said rebuilding public trust and confidence in fiscal and monetary policies and measures through policy consistency, predictability and credibility was crucial.
The parties said there was a need to depoliticise and decriminalise the discourse on public debt management, particularly the demand for debt transparency and accountability and also ensuring the protection of whistleblowers.