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Submission on the content of a new constitution
The constitution must stipulate that Parliament approves all borrowing and grants all guarantees. This should be done through a resolution of Parliament, guided by portfolio committees such as Budget Finance, and Economic Development and Public Accounts. Alternatively, the Constitution can provide for a Loans and Guarantees Commission mandated to work hand in hand with these committees to promote mechanisms for constitutionally guaranteed citizen input, and subject projects that are funded by debt to prior financial, social and environmental analysis. Parliament's capacity in issues of public finance management must be built so that it avoids rubber stamping loan proposals without carrying out due diligence. There should be a provision that requires the government to consult civil society groups and project beneficiaries before borrowing from external sources to ensure that the development priorities outlined in loan agreements reflect the aspirations of the people. The Constitution must specify an explicit role for the Attorney-General in loan contraction and debt management process. The executive powers of the Minister of Finance and Presidency in this specific area must be limited, to ensure accountability, transparency and depersonalisation in the administration of the public debt.
All debt charges for which government is liable must be charged upon the Consolidated Revenue Fund in the constitution. The Minister of Finance must ask Parliament to approve loan guarantees before they are given. Both creditor and debtor should guarantee transparency. Loans and their terms and conditions must therefore be publicised in the Gazette and national newspapers before the contract is signed. Central Bank, Councils, Parastatal and Private Sector Borrowing must be included under these provisions to reduce the levels of public liability. Periodic reports to Parliament on loans and debt must be constitutionally binding on such entities and their respective ministries.
The constitution must stipulate limits for government borrowing and granting guarantees. A ceiling must be placed on international loans based on specific, sound economic analyses and considerations. Borrowing must be limited to projects that are socially and environmentally sustainable; target poverty reduction goals and do not violate economic social and cultural rights. Debt service (money paid annually to creditors, on principal and interest) must be based on a proportion of social spending specified in the constitution.
The Founding Principles of the Constitution
Bill of Rights
The new constitution must contain justiciable (enforceable) social and economic rights in its Bill of Rights. Specifically, these rights should include the rights to Social Security, Housing, Health, Food, Water, Education and Work. It must provide that where an international human rights treaty is properly ratified or acceded to by the Government, it must automatically become part of our domestic laws.
The constitution must also specifically enshrine the State's obligation to respect, protect promote and fulfill social and economic rights and the right to an effective remedy in cases where these rights are violated.
Auditing of Public Finances
Zimbabwe needs a stronger, independent office of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).The Constitution should explicitly establish the CAG Office. The constitution should also give this office strong powers and independence, with the protection similar to that afforded to judges. Furthermore, the selection, nomination and removal of the CAG by the President must be subjected to confirmation by Parliament. This office should be able to audit all accounts. Nothing should prevent any accounts from being audited, even if they raise national security issues. The reports from this office should be easily available to the public.
The constitution must guarantee transparency and accountability in the management of public finances. It should also stipulate that the budget must be geared towards the realisation of people's rights as enunciated in the bill of rights. The constitution must align national budgets to widely agreed social and economic priorities through a participatory budgeting system that includes but is not limited to Parliament, Civil Society, Women, Youth, Academia, Labour and Business. The constitution must also place a cap to debt service as a proportion of budget allocations towards social service delivery and infrastructure development.
In order for achieve a national budget that is gender responsive and sensitive it is important for the nation to develop and apply the proper tools for the analysis at all levels. Budgets which do not utilise the gender analysis tool should be rejected by the Ministry of Finance. This type of budgeting has to be mandatory and once enforced at Ministry level.
The constitution should stipulate that the primary function of the Central Bank must be monetary governance functions geared towards the realisation of people's rights as enunciated in the bill of rights. The selection, nomination and removal of the Governor by the President must be subjected to confirmation by Parliament. It is necessary to give it a degree of independence and a relation to the parent ministry akin to that of the AG's office, Judiciary and other autonomous arms of state. The constitution should be explicit in protecting it from political interference. An independent Board of Directors and Parliament must play an oversight role over the operations of the Central Bank.
The Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF)
The CRF has to be clearly defined, what money goes into the Fund, namely taxes, revenue earned through government receipts via ministries, etc and profits earned through government shareholding, as well as donor funds, loans, grants and loans. All these and more should be looked as receipts (income) There should be a professional, lean office with qualified human resources to administer this Fund and these should also be remunerated from it. The fund should be able to pay all government employees and all expenses incurred in their efficient execution of duty. This office should have a role in the drafting the annual National Budget. The Fund should aim to create a national reserve in its budgeting, to ensure that the country has reserves.
Elections, Transitional Mechanisms and Independent Commissions
Independent Commissions (Focus on the Human Rights Commission)
The constitution must establish an independent Human Rights Commission and the Public Protector which strengthen the enforcement of socio-economic rights. The Human Rights Commission must monitor and assess the observance of human rights in Zimbabwe and investigate allegations of violations of the rights contained in the Bill of Rights. The Public Protector must investigate any action taken by an officer, person or authority in the exercise of administrative functions where that action allegedly causes injustice to another person and there appears to be no remedy available by way of court proceedings.
The constitution must also recognise the critical role played by other stakeholders like civil society in the implementation and monitoring of human rights in Zimbabwe and create a framework under which they can independently represent the people in demanding accountability from the State for human rights violations.
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