BY VENERANDA LANGA
LOCAL civil society groups are lobbying Parliament to pass the Public Finance Management Bill which will force public and constitutional bodies to implement recommendations arising from Auditor-General (AG) Mildred Chiri’s reports.
The Public Finance Management Bill was recently approved by Cabinet and will soon be presented before Parliament.
It seeks to align the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) to the Constitution, as well as to strengthen parliamentary oversight over use of public funds to curb corruption, which drains the country of several millions of dollars every year.
Civic society groups such as the Zimbabwe Coalition for Debt and Development (Zimcodd) have launched a campaign to lobby for its acceptance by the public.
“Citizens are, therefore, calling for mechanisms to enforce and monitor implementation of the recommendations for public entities with penalties put in place in cases of non-compliance. The Act should further provide for the establishment of a committee in each public entity to enforce implementation of the recommendations from the AG’s Office and mandate Parliament to play a critical role in enforcing the implementation of the recommendations,” Zimcodd said in a report on the Bill.
“Citizens are demanding that the local and national budgets should only be approved upon sufficient evidence of genuine and meaningful citizen engagement and consultation in the preparation of budgets.
“The PFM Act should compel the Finance ministry to timely produce and avail citizen versions of key budget documents, including the budget strategy paper and the budget itself to increase citizen participation in the national budget process.”
Another suggestion was that if the current amendments to the Constitution are successful, then strengthening of public finance management in the country would be severely affected.
Constitutional Amendment (No 2) Bill proposes an amendment in section 327 to clip the powers of Parliament from approving international loans and agreements.
“The essence of the PFM Bill in strengthening public finance management in Zimbabwe will be undermined if the constitutional amendment of section 327 is allowed to pass. This will limit Parliament’s power to approve international agreements if such agreements impose fiscal obligations on Zimbabweans,” Zimcodd said.
The public also called for punitive and deterrent measures for perpetrators of financial misconduct and those that misuse public funds. It also wants penalties in place for public entities that fail to comply with Chiri’s recommendations.
Other proposed amendments are on section 11(2) of the PFMA, which allows for the Finance minister to bring a condonation Bill before Parliament seeking forgiveness for over-expenditure, which has resulted in the country incurring heavy debts.
The current Condonation Bill seeks forgiveness for US$10 billion over-expenditure.