By Lincoln Towindo
Government has suspended the purchase of condition of service vehicles for all ministers, with the money now being used to purchase a fleet of new ambulances for public health facilities, Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube has said.
In the spirit of austerity, Government is aggressively cutting non-essential expenditure and redirecting spending towards social service delivery and infrastructure development.
Further, authorities are strongly pushing for procuring vehicles for parliamentarians from local car assemblers.
Already, the President, his Deputies, ministers and all senior bureaucrats have taken a 5 percent pay cut as part of the austerity measures.
Government has 21 Cabinet Ministers, 14 Deputy Ministers and nine Ministers of State.
Cabinet Ministers were usually given an executive car and two off-road vehicles as part of their condition of service.
Deputy Ministers were, however, entitled to an executive car and one off-roader.
Speaking during a town hall meeting organised by Global Shapers Community Harare on Friday, Prof Ncube said Government is serious about austerity.
“By the way, our strategy for showing how we are using resources also shows in the way we are making savings.
“I have said to all the ministers, my colleagues and all the Members of Parliament, that we shouldn’t have these fancy cars.
“We have not authorised the purchase of a car for a minister in Zimbabwe. None!
“I have said to them, you know I need the money to buy ambulances, I need ambulances and that is what I am going to buy with the savings from the cars for the ministers; that is what I am going to do,” said Prof Ncube.
“So we are very serious about this austerity, about walking the talk, about meeting the people of Zimbabwe halfway, about using their 2 percent taxes properly.
“The 2 percent tax is not about paying to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, it’s about us giving back to the people what they contributed in the first place and covering the areas where we think we can create the right type of goods for everyone to benefit from,” he said.
A study on emergency and ambulance service commissioned by Government last year established that owing to the shortage of ambulances, nearly 30 percent of road traffic accident victims die before reaching a health care facility.
The study also established that transit time for patients in ambulances ranges between four to five hours, leading to unnecessary loss of life.
All Government ambulances, the study revealed, lacked basic equipment including oxygen, delivery packs for pregnant women in transit, resuscitation equipment, masks, intravenous lines for drips, intravenous stands and trolleys.
In most cases, unqualified staff assist patients during transit because of the shortage of ambulance technicians.
The study recommended that all 63 districts in the country’s health system should have at least two functional ambulances and qualified personnel.
Government will potentially save millions of dollars from suspending the purchase of ministerial vehicles.
A 2018 Land Rover Discovery retails for between US$52 000 and US$68 000, while Mercedes Benz E 300 sedan costs around US$52 000.
A fully equipped emergency ambulance sells for between US$200 000 and US$225 000.
Minister Ncube said Government will continue to insist on purchase of locally assembled vehicles for parliamentarians in order to save foreign currency.
“Someone made a very passionate plea about the purchase of cars, I agree with you totally. I would like everybody to buy local.
“We have Willowvale plant and other facilities that we need to support. I do not want to be allocating resources to import more and more cars when we have locally assembled cars that we should be buying and supporting local jobs.
“I agree with that, that certainly is a priority and I am pushing for that to be the case.”
Zanu-PF legislators have turned down parliamentary vehicles. The Sunday Mail