Govt dumping its social responsibility on donors: MPs

The Felix Mhona-led Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Budget, Finance and Economic Development says the government has dumped its social responsibility to donors citing the paltry funding the latter has put towards the fight against Covid-19 compared to donor interventions.

Speaking in Parliament recently, Mhona said they were not happy with the money released by the government so far in the fight against the pandemic.

“The Committee notes with concern unsatisfactory allocations towards the Covid-19 pandemic wherein only ZWL$1.8 billion was released to various Ministries/Agencies/Departments,” said Mhona.  

“Support to the Ministry of Health and Child Care was ZWL$738.5 million. The immediate priority should be to ramp up public health expenditures to contain the virus outbreak as Covid 19 cases spike, offer humanitarian assistance and rescue the economy. The support to business and households should be sizable and timely and should not exclude those in the informal sector.”

Mhona further said: “The ZWL$ 738.5 million is lower than US$27 million disbursed by development partners towards the pandemic during the same period. This shows that the government was only concerned with balancing its books while dumping its core social responsibilities to development partners.”

He said when the Finance and Economic Development Minister Mthuli Ncube appeared before their committee on 3 June, he assured them that by 31 May 2020 Treasury had made budget releases of ZWL $1.3 billion of which cash availed amounted to ZWL $1.1 billion. “This was mainly directed towards procurement of PPEs, screening, testing and isolation as well as WASH programmes in local authorities,” said Mhona.

“He also indicated that theTreasury had mobilised ZWL $500 million through TBs against a target of ZWL $1 billion for emergency funding for the Covid-19 pandemic. The Minister also put it on record that with regards to Covid-19 donations, domestic cash donations amounted to US$85 069 and ZWL $14.8 million then. Development partners had also chipped in with US$184.35 million excluding donations in kind.”

In a related matter the committee also noted with concern that only ZWL$50 million has been availed so far to support the transitory poor households.

“Government also availed ZWL$127.8 million to cushion vulnerable groups in both urban and rural areas,” said Mhona.

“The Minister of Finance had announced in March that the Treasury had set aside ZWL $600 million in financial support over three months (ZWL $200 million a month] for small businesses and vulnerable people affected by the lockdown. However, most of the communities that our members represent have not benefited from the scheme. The committee calls upon Treasury to prioritise cushioning the poor and vulnerable and these include small scale farmers, petty traders in the informal sector, people living with HIV and AIDS, people living with disability among others from the adverse effects of the pandemic through targeted social transfers.”

He added that local councillors and community-based organisations should be involved in beneficiary identification for social transfers to vulnerable persons, laid-off workers, and eligible self-employed persons in the informal sectors.

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