GOVERNMENT should ensure strict accountability in its use of Covid-19 vaccine funds as the public remains in the dark on the breakdown of the US$93.2 million spent in procuring the life-saving jabs, governance watchdogs say.
In July, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube told the nation the government spent US$93.2 million out of an allocation of US$100 million on Covid-19 vaccines but conspicuously absent from his speech was the breakdown of how the money had been used.
This week, cabinet revealed the country had already acquired 13 million doses out of the 20 million doses required to achieve herd immunity by December 2021.
But government has failed to publish contracts. Procurement processes pertaining to the awarding of public tenders are handled clandestinely.
The basic tenets of public finance management require the government to publish all relevant information concerning the procurement of vaccines to the last detail. This is because transparency and accountability are not only statutory requirements but also constitutional stipulations.
This is important as Zimbabweans have already experienced corruption in the procurement and supply of Covid-19 requirements.
Transparency advocates say Ncube should publish a breakdown of all the Covid-19 outlays; the names of the suppliers, those given supply contracts or the middlemen – companies and their beneficial owners – the pricing, and margins, and how the supplies were distributed, when and where.
While purchase of Covid-19 vaccines is commendable and instrumental in protecting the lives of millions of Zimbabweans who have been under successive lockdowns since March last year, the government should improve its accounting processes, analysts say.
Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (Zimcodd) programmes manager John Maketo said the government’s processes lacked transparency.
“There should be compliance to public finance management systems. The constitution is clear, but issues of compliance and impunity remain a problem,” Maketo told The NewsHawks.
“The Auditor-General’s report has sufficient evidence to the fact that there has not been proper planning and sound financial management with regards to Covid-19 funds. It brings us to shame as a country if the Finance minister goes to ask for money that we cannot account for,” he added.
Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) head of programmes Tafadzwa Chikumbu said there has not been full disclosure of government’s use of Covid-19 funds.
“Transparency and accountability on the use of Covid-19 funds has been a challenge over the years. Information on the total receipt and expenditure has not been fully disclosed for public scrutiny. There is evidence of gross misuse and abuse of public funds,” Chikumbu said.
“The recent reports, both the 2019 annual audit report and the Covid-19 audit report by the Auditor-General, media reports and TIZ Briefs have highlighted the continued misappropriation of funds, violation of procurement rules and regulations.”
TIZ says government is blighted by gross unsupported expenditure, wasteful expenditure, unreconciled expenditure, unauthorised transfer of funds, fraudulent expenditure, unauthorised borrowing, excess expenditure, overstated expenditure, and payments made for goods not delivered.
Chikumbu said full disclosure of government spending would improve public confidence.
“Full disclosure of information on the source and utilisation of public funds is important. It enables corruption risks and vulnerabilities to be addressed as various stakeholders can monitor and hold the government to account on its expenditure patterns. Transparent processes enhance public confidence in the government’s policy implementation strategies and broadly increases trust in governance institutions. Public trust and confidence in institutions are fundamental attributes of sound governance practices,” Chikumbu said.
Ministry of Finance chief director of communications Clive Mphambela declined to comment, dropping the phone on this reporter.
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