Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Finance spent $10.6 billion in unauthorized expenditure in the space of three years between 2015 and 2018, the country’s Public Accounts Portfolio Committee (PAC) revealed on Tuesday.
The committee — chaired by the vice president of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party, Tendai Biti — accused the regimes of late dictator Robert Mugabe and his successor Emmerson Mnangagwa of spending $10.6 billion outside of budget allocations and without any authorization from parliament.
Biti described the overspending as a “massive invasion of the Constitution” and revealed that such overspending continued to take place even though the Auditor-General Mildred Chiri had warned them of over-expenditure. Most of the spending was carried out during the government’s unsuccessful Command Agriculture Programme aimed at improving harvests in a country where many people live in extreme poverty and suffer from malnourishment.
“The over expenditure by the Finance ministry was a massive invasion of the Constitution,” he told ministry officials. “This was outside the allocated budget. This is a deficit on top of a deficit. Very abnormal. These amounts are extraordinary.”
The chief director of expenditure management, Pfungwa Kunaka, admitted he had not fully understood the expectations regarding the spending of public finances.
“The Treasury now fully appreciates the expectations of PAC, in particular the need to bring this Financial Adjustment Bill to closure,” he said.
Such excessive spending has not been uncommon under both Mugabe and Mnangagwa, whose regimes are responsible for turning the country into one of the poorest and most corrupt places on earth. In June, Minister of Health Obadiah Moyo was arrested and charged with corruption after evidence surfaced that he illegally awarded $60 million worth of preferential government contracts to procure supplies to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Hopewell Chin’ono, an award-winning investigative journalist in Zimbabwe who was recently jailed and tortured after exposing widespread corruption and theft of public funds, said following his release last month that the current leadership is “worse than Robert Mugabe” with regard to corruption and general respect for human rights.
“Nobody thought that anybody could be worse than Robert Mugabe, but Emmerson Mnangagwa has just proved us wrong — that, indeed, he is worse than Robert Mugabe,” he lamented in his first interview after his release. “I think the most important message to Zimbabweans — and to South Africa, because we are sort of intertwined — is that Zimbabwe is rich. Zimbabwe is wealthy… The looting of public funds, the plundering of national resources is what has made Zimbabweans poor.”