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Parliamentary Roundup Bulletin No. 33 - 2011
Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust
October 06, 2011


Introduction

The Minister of Finance Hon. Tendai Biti launched the Budget Strategy Paper in the House of Assembly yesterday. Being Wednesday yesterday, backbenchers quizzed Ministers on policy issues during the question and answer session. The presence of Ministers in the House was a great improvement yesterday as compared to last week where less than four Ministers attended the sittings.

House of Assembly Plenary Proceedings

Question and Answer Session:

Abuse of Constituency Development Fund (CDF)

Hon. Fred Kanzama (ZANU PF Mutare South) asked the Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs to put the record straight regarding press reports that some MPs abused the CDF and that was tarnishing the image of all MPs. In response, Hon. Eric Matinenga said he had no control over what the press wrote. He advised Hon. Kanzama to institute legal proceedings against the press if he felt that his image had been tarnished. Assistance to Patients Referred for Treatment Outside Zimbabwe

Hon. Dorothy Mangami (ZANU PF Gokwe) asked the Minister of Health and Child Welfare, Hon. Henry Madzorera, whether or not government assisted patients referred outside the country for specialist treatment. The Minister said government did not have in place a policy to assist such patients. He said such patients usually made their own private arrangements.

Retrieval of Birth Records

Hon. Thamsanqa Mahlangu (MDC-T Nkulumane) asked the Minister of Health and Child Welfare why some clinics and hospitals were denying mothers access to birth records of their babies insisting that they should first pay outstanding user fees. The Minister said that no mother should be denied access to the birth records of their child as it was a national requirement for each child to have a birth certificate. He further said that his ministry was in the process of abolishing user fees.

Lack of Qualified Medical Doctors in District Hospitals

Hon. Anadi Sululu (MDC-T Silobela) asked the Minister of Health and Child Welfare why most district hospitals did not have resident qualified medical doctors as this had contributed to poor health service delivery in those hospitals. The Minister said the country did not have adequate medical doctors due to the “brain drain” to other countries offering better conditions of service. Thus, over the past decade, the country lost many doctors because of poor working conditions in the country. Hon. Madzorera informed the House that the country produces 150 medical doctors every year but as soon as the doctors completed their housemanship, they leave the country. However, he said for the last two years or so, retention of medical doctors had greatly improved and hence an effort would be made to ensure that all district hospitals get qualified medical doctors.

One-stop Exporter Centre

Hon. Simbaneuta Mudarikwa (ZANU PF Uzumba) asked the Minister of Finance if he could consider setting up a one-stop exporter centre similar to the one-stop investment centre recently established. The Minister said it was a good idea to have such a facility given the increased volumes of exports and the numerous departments involved in the export process. He said he was going to consider the idea in his 2012 budget of setting up an export guarantee agent.

Distribution of Agricultural Inputs

Hon. Willard Chimbetete (MDC-T Nyanga South) asked the Minister of Agriculture, Mechanization and Irrigation Development, Hon. Dr. Joseph Made, to explain the to the House who was responsible for the distribution of agricultural inputs from the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) to the villagers and if MPs had a role to play in this process. The Minister said the distribution of agricultural inputs was the responsibility of the GMB. However, he said there were various authorities, though he did not mention any, involved in the monitoring of the process to ensure that the inputs reached the intended beneficiaries. The Minister said since MPs had a vested interest as community leaders, they should also be part of the monitoring process.

Farmers Owed by GMB

Hon. Betty Chikava (ZANU PF Mount Darwin East) raised to the Minister of Finance the plight of farmers who were still to be paid by GMB for grain delivered to GMB silos. She said given the onset of the rain reasons, those farmers needed money to buy inputs for the current agricultural season. Minister Biti confirmed that GMB owed farmers to the tune of $35 million. As part payment to the farmers, he said treasury released $10 million to GMB last week. In addition, the Minister said government was in the process of mobilizing agricultural inputs (seed and fertilizer) to the tune of $30 million so that those farmers owed by GMB would not be prejudiced by GMB’s failure to pay them on time so as to prepare for the current season. Hon. Biti assured the House that all farmers owed by GMB would be paid all their money by 31 December 2011.

The Minister took the opportunity to put the record straight regarding what he called “myths, propaganda and asinine remarks “regarding the financing of agriculture in Zimbabwe. He said between 2009, when the inclusive government was established, and 26 July 2011, the government, private sector and the international donor community had injected $1.9 billion into agriculture. He said some of that money went into acquisition of agricultural inputs, grain imports to offset deficit and some of it was used to restock grain reserves. He said by the end of the year, the country would have stocked 500 000 metric tonnes of grain reserves, which would be a record high in the history of this country.

Government Bail-out to GMB

Hon. Willias Madzimure (MDC-T Kambuzuma) queried government’s logic of bailing out GMB year after year but still GMB declared losses every year when it was in a position to make profits through its commercial arm. The Minister of Finance, Hon. Biti said it was government’s responsibility to ensure food availability for its citizens. Hence the government had the responsibility to stock grain reserves and to that extent government pays GMB to stock grain reserves. However, the Minister pointed out that through its commercial arm, GMB should be able to make profits if properly managed. He said GMB was hiding its inefficiencies behind grain reserves when its wage bill was $2 million a month. Hon. Biti further informed the House that government was in the process of unbundling GMB into two units; namely, the strategic grain reserves unit and the commercial unit.

Appointment of Board Members

Hon. Dorcas Sibanda (MDC-T Bulawayo Central) asked the Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry to explain government policy regarding the appointment of personnel to Boards, in view of the fact that the Tourism Board did not have someone representing Matabeleland region. Minister Walter Mzembi said the policy was silent on such issues but he said it was an ideal thing to have a regional balance in Boards. Hon. Mzembi said Matabeleland region was represented by a Mr. Maphosa.

Retention of Funds By Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP)

Hon. Collin Gwiyo (MDC-T Zengeza West) asked the Minister of Finance to explain why the ZRP was allowed to retain funds collected from traffic offence fines and other fines. Minister Biti informed the House that in terms of Section 103 of the constitution, all moneys collected by government departments were supposed to be deposited into the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF). However, during the hyperinflation period, government allowed some departments such as ZRP, Registrar General etc to retain some funds for their operational costs. He said since the economy has stabilized, that policy would be revisited with a view to reversing it.

Stray Animals Roaming About on Highways

Hon. Felix Sibanda asked the Minister of Agriculture, Mechanization and Irrigation Development if there was any policy to deal stray domestic animals that roam the national highways risking the lives of motorists and passengers. Hon. Dr. Made informed the House that in terms of policy, the obligation was on the owner of the animals to restrain from grazing along highways. Secondly, he said the policy obligated the Ministry of Transport to fence off highways.

Hosting of the General Assembly of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation

Hon. Isheunesu Muza asked the Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry to explain to the House the significance of hosting the General Assembly of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation. Minister Mzembi said Zimbabwe and Zambia were co-sponsoring a bid to host General Assembly of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation. He said this was a big international event and Zimbabwe’s tourism was set to benefit in very big way as this event would bring in 200 Ministers of Tourism and more 4000 other foreign delegates.

Awarding of Government Tenders to Foreign Companies

Hon. Paddy Zhanda queried the minister of Finance, Hon. Biti why government was awarding tenders to foreign companies instead of local companies given the levels of unemployment in the country. In response, Hon. Biti said the Procurement Act clearly specified which projects should be awarded to local and foreign companies, respectively. He said most of the capital projects were awarded to foreign companies mainly because they had money to finance those projects. However, he said government should make it a point that local industries benefit from such projects through the supply of materials and that locals were employed in those projects.

Launch of the Budget Strategy Paper

The Minister of Finance, Hon. Tendai Biti launched the Budget Strategy Paper (BSP) yesterday in the House of Assembly. The BSP lays out the budget framework as regard public and stakeholders’ participation in the formulation process. The concept derives from the public Finance Management Act, which places greater emphasis on public participation in the budget process. This is the first time that such a development has ever happened in the history of the budget process in this country.

In launching the BSP in parliament yesterday, Hon. Biti said the Budget Strategy Paper was a “new important element” that the ministry had developed to “underpin participatory democracy, inclusivity and ownership in policy formulation”. He further noted that the Budget was an important fiscal element that must belong to the people. Thus, the Minister said the BSP served to “guarantee a bottom-up participatory approach in budget formulation”.

A full analysis of the BSP will be provided in our next Bulletin.

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