‘Disclose Mugabe’s office budget’

HARARE - The US State Department has said Zimbabwe must make public President Robert Mugabe’s office budget as a step towards improving fiscal transparency.

This comes after the Comptroller and Auditor-General Mildred Chiri revealed that the President’s Office failed to produce documents for auditing purposes such as invoices, receipts and goods received to support payments.

“Zimbabwe’s fiscal transparency would be improved by detailing revenues and expenditures including allocations to the office of the President and Cabinet, and revenues from state-owned enterprises and natural resources; and making supreme audit institution reports publicly available within a reasonable period of time,” the US State Department’s 2015 Fiscal Transparency Report says.

The report said the budget is publicly available but does not clearly detail the large allocation to the office of the president and Cabinet.

Chiri’s latest report on the 2011 budget appropriations tabled in Parliament said Mugabe’s office paid for assets valued at about $500 000 without attaching invoices to validate the payments.

“The supreme audit institution audits the budget but its reports are not publicly available within a reasonable period of time,” the US State Department report said.

George Charamba, the presidential affairs spokesperson, could not be immediately reached for comment yesterday.

Annual reviews of the fiscal transparency of governments that receive US assistance help ensure taxpayers’ money is used appropriately and provides opportunities to dialogue with governments on the importance of fiscal transparency.

The US has provided over $2,6 billion in development assistance to Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, according to Shannon Smith, deputy assistant secretary for the bureau of African affairs.

“Zimbabwe’s fiscal transparency would also be improved by establishing laws and regulations governing natural resource extraction contracts and licensing, following the law in practice, and making basic information about such awards and contracts publicly available,” the US report said.

Fiscal transparency is a critical element of effective public financial management, helps in building market confidence, and underpins economic sustainability, as well as fostering government accountability.

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