via Broke govt takes 300 MPs, aides to Vic Falls – New Zimbabwe 20/10/2015
THE cash-strapped government is set embark on yet another expensive excursion through hosting more than 300 MPs and supporting staff during a four-day pre-budget seminar scheduled for this month-end in Victoria Falls.
House of Assembly Speaker Jacob Mudenda defended the outing saying it was part of parliament’s mandate.
He said the legislators would not be able to concentrate if the seminar was held in Harare, parliament’s base.
MPs from both houses will be flown to the resort town on scheduled and chartered flights and will be hosted for a good four days in expensive hotels for what has now become a pre-budget ritual.
“May I remind all hon. members who have not yet confirmed their attendance at the Pre-Budget Seminar to be held in Victoria Falls from the 30th October to the 3rd of November 2015, to do so with the Public Relations Department so that adequate arrangements can be finalised before the 16th of October,” Mudenda told MPs this past week.
“Gatecrashers will only be entertained at their own expense. Hon. Members from Matebeleland South and North, Bulawayo, Masvingo and Midlands Provinces are advised to drive to Victoria Falls, while hon. members from the rest of the provinces will use scheduled and chartered flights from Harare.”
The pre-budget seminar involves MPs, some of whom have never uttered a single word during parliament’s successive sittings, contributing towards the 2016 budget, set to be presented later this year by Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa.
Hotel accommodation at Elephants Hills and other hotels in Victoria Falls runs into hundreds of dollars per night, itself a fortune to a government that has occasionally extended the begging bowl to resuscitate a comatose economy.
Government has routinely failed to finance capital projects with nearly 80 per cent of its gross income gobbled by its giant wage bill.
But the huge expense to be incurred during the four day Victoria Falls sojourn leaves government’s sincerity being questioned.
Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) programmes director Janet Zhou said this was not surprising for a government known for its propensity to splurge on non-essentials.
“It would really not come as a surprise but I think those are some of the contradictions in terms of what we intend to do and what is on the paper in terms of what we are supposed to do,” Zhou told NewZimbabwe.com.
“You can even look at the staff monitored programme which speaks to sanitising the public finance management.
“In terms of our recurrent expenditure and things that we do on a day to day basis, we seem to overlook the benchmark that we have spent so that we create more fiscal space for social expenditure.
“This (Victoria Falls trip) is not necessary and most likely they are doing this on debt that would be accruing at a domestic level.”
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa could not be reached for comment.
But Mudenda defended the jaunt said taking the MPs away from Harare was very necessary.
“There is distraction in the capital. We want full attention among members,” said Mudenda, adding that “our collaborative partners are taking care of that”.
Mudenda refused to divulge the sponsors and the full budget for the seminar.