COMMENT: Extortionist public officials must face the music

21 Sep, 2022 - 00:09 0 Views
COMMENT: Extortionist public officials must face the music RTGS and USD money

The Chronicle

A CAN of worms was opened recently when Government conducted a value for money investigation on all payments to suppliers and contractors to ministries, departments and agencies.

Unscrupulous service providers were pegging their prices based on speculative market exchange rates as high as ZWL$2 000 per US dollar yet both the official and black market rates were nowhere near that figure.

Recently, it emerged that the Parliament of Zimbabwe was billed US$10 000 per laptop, which is way above general market prices for high specification laptops while a 2kg pack of chicken was claimed to be worth US$30 against market prices of a maximum of US$6.

The Ministry of Finance and Economic Development last month instituted a “value for money process” for all payments to suppliers and contractors to central Government, departments and agencies.

Finance and Economic Development Minister, Professor Mthuli Ncube, on Monday told the media that the combined effect of inflated procurement costs is the rapid erosion of budgeted resources.

“These behaviours were effectively directly driving inflation in the economy, making inflation control difficult, as market behaviour was in fact, creating and sustaining adverse inflation expectations,” said Prof Ncube.

“It was, therefore, necessary and urgently imperative for the Government through Treasury to institute additional comprehensive measures to further strengthen procurement systems and to improve management of payment cycles for Government contracts.

“We have seen supply contracts with prices clearly determined using forward parallel market exchange rates, some as high as ZWL$2 000 per USD.

“The extortionist pricing of goods and services supplied to the Government is in most cases not anchored on economic fundamentals.”

While we commend Government for refusing to pay such extortionist figures, internal investigations need to be done and accounting officers must face the music for approving charges based on speculative market exchange rates.

Kickbacks cannot be ruled out in this latest scandal. Whose interests were the accounting officers serving?

Service and goods providers whose prices are based on speculative market exchange rates do not see that while they are enriching themselves, they hurt the national economy. 

Professor Mthuli Ncube

Government is already swamped with national infrastructure projects, as well as health, safety and security needs of the nation. Making Government pay five times more for a 2kg pack of chicken is plain evil. 

It is also reckless and scandalous for an accounting officer in Government to approve such a payment. The long arm of the law must catch up with such senior Government officials.

How can someone entrusted with implementing Government policy and the drive leading to an upper middle-income economy waste public funds like that?

We urge Government to conduct a full investigation and rid itself of corrupt or incompetent individuals. 

It is the ordinary people who suffer when Government fails to deliver or when taxes are raised to pay for obscene costs.

Those involved in this scandal must be punished swiftly and severely!

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