Ishemunyoro Chingwere Business Reporter
Government is tightening the belt in public finances management and has devised measures to govern expenditure and debt.
A key feature of the new regulations — contained in Statutory Instrument SI 144 of 2019, also known as Public Finance Management (Treasury Instructions) 2019 gazetted last Friday — is the barring of expenses related to Government officials travelling with spouses or family while on duty.
Additionally, the regulations set out conditions for payment for trips.
The new regulations seek to supervise the consolidated revenue fund, charges upon consolidated revenue fund, appropriations from the fund, limits of State borrowing, public debt and State guarantees, safeguards of public funds and properties, among 10 of the key deliverables.
SI 144 takes into account the macro-economic framework, Government’s future borrowing requirements as well as domestic and international economic and financial conditions.
On costs incurred by Government officials’ families, the new regulations read: “Government shall not be responsible for costs incurred when officers on official duty travel with spouses, children or dependants.”
The new regulations set up a framework for the management of Government debt which stood at US$16,6 billion as at December 31 last year, of which US$$8,16 billion was external debt.
The bulk of the debt is historical, incurred during the First Republic era, which was notable for its profligacy.
Read the new regulations in part: “Treasury shall formulate a medium-term debt management strategy for managing GoZ (Government of Zimbabwe) debt.
“It is the responsibility of the PDMO (Public Debt Management Office) to prepare and publish the medium-term debt management strategy . . .”
SI 144 of 2019 notes that the strategy shall take into account “the existing
public debt portfolio especially (but not exclusively) the Government component of the public debt portfolio.”
Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube approved the Treasury instruments in terms of section 78 of the Public Finance Management Act (Chapter 22:19).
They shall henceforth replace and supersede all previous instruments.
The new measures are a departure from the previous regime’s practices, and are seen as a huge step towards cutting Government expenditure in line with the 2019 national Budget, which was presented under the theme: “Austerity for prosperity”.
Under the TSP – a national short-term economic blueprint that runs from October 2018 to December 2020 – Government commits to strengthening public finance management systems, and the move to formulate a medium-term debt management strategy is part of the process.
The TSP prioritises strengthening the Public Finance Management System, building on work already being conducted under the World Bank managed Zimbabwe Reconstruction Fund, to roll-out the system to cover all districts.
But analysts say for the TSP to be a success and ‘Vision 2030’ to be attained, there was need for transparency and accountability to stop rent-seeking and corrupt behaviours by ordinary citizens in general and public office bearers in particular.
In the TSP’s preface, President Mnangagwa notes the importance of transparency and accountability when conducting Government business.
“Most importantly, the need for transparency and accountability by all stakeholders and citizens will be key for the transformation of the economy and realising the aspirations of Vision 2030,” notes the President.