BY LISA TAZVIINGA
THE broke government is shelling out millions of dollars on vehicles for senior bureaucrats despite pledging to significantly cut expenditure under its much-publicised austerity plan, it has emerged.
Through a loan facility, senior civil servants — from the position of deputy director upwards — will get vehicles.
The Central Mechanical and Equipment Department (CMED) board has since written to the intended beneficiaries inviting them to take up the offer.
CMED is responsible for managing the government fleet.
The invitation is in line with a circular released by the Civil Service Commission in June last year.
Those invited to take up the loans occupy positions of deputy director, director and principal director and are entitled to amounts of $20 000, $30 000 and $40 000 respectively, at an annual interest rate of 5%.
“Qualified applicants and interested members are requested to urgently submit applications stating the choice and type of vehicle needed.
“Applications should be submitted to this office in the attention of the (CMED) director human resources,” a copy of a letter of invitation seen by the Zimbabwe Independent this week reads.
The letter, sent to one of the deputy directors, was signed by CMED board chairperson Professor Sheunesu Mpepereki and is dated December 18 2018.
Government is offering to pay value-added tax and import duty on the vehicles within the prescribed loan limit.
According to the arrangement, the lowest monthly instalment is $10,61 for a vehicle costing $1 000 while the highest premium is $212,13 for a $20 000 vehicle.
To breathe life into the loan scheme, special adjustments to the Transport Purchase Fund managed by the CMED were made late last year in order to include beneficiaries of the loan scheme.
The process ensures direct payment to the vehicle agency of the loan-holder’s choice as soon as an agreement of sale has been signed.
Some directors have criticised the loan scheme, saying it will not serve its intended purpose, considering that $30 000 in RTGS dollars can only buy a car worth about US$8 000.
A director who opted out of the scheme because of the conditions stated said it was a poorly calculated move on the part of government to adopt that arrangement, especially when the RTGS dollar/US dollar exchange rate does not work in the bureaucrats’ favour.
“The loan is not worth it, if anything it will cost me in the long run. It is being provided in bond currency yet all cars are being sold in US dollars or at least an equivalent rate.
“The current rate is at 1:4, meaning for a $30 000 loan, I can only purchase a US$$8 000 car which will obviously be a small family car, but that is not the idea,” he said.
The initiative to provide loan schemes was first proposed by former finance minister Patrick Chinamasa, as a way of cutting down on government expenditure. His successor Mthuli Ncube upheld the decision and went on to institute a strict government fleet management policy to prevent abuse of the vehicles.
Chairperson of the Civil Service Commission, Vincent Hungwe, declined to comment, saying: “You may want to get the details by submitting your questions to the office of the secretary of commissions, Ambassador (Jonathan) Wutawunashe.”
Wutawunashe could not be reached for comment.