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Govt fails to rehabilitate embassies after ‘funds were hit by inflation’

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in 2021 failed to rehabilitate four of Zimbabwe’s foreign missions namely, Windhoek, Geneva, Paris and Gaborone as well as to purchase three new Chanceries and three official residences in Ankara, Kigali and Abu Dhabi because the Treasury released late, some of the allocated money which was then hit by inflation.

According to the latest report by the Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, for the two budget years, 2020 and 2021, the Ministry managed to get an average actual disbursement of 57% of the total allocation for each year from the Treasury. The resultant variance was around 42%.

The report further noted that inflation took its toll on the disbursed funds resulting in the erosion of value/ buying power of the local currency due to exchange rate fluctuations.

According to the Committee, the situation was further exacerbated by late disbursements of funds by the Treasury “which had become a common phenomenon judging on the basis of the analysis of the 2020 and 2021 budget performance reports from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.”

Due to this behavior by the Ministry of Finance, headed by Mthuli Ncube, responsible for allocating funds to government departments, the Foreign Affairs Ministry said it failed to meet its target including rehabilitating some of the country’s embassies across the world.

“To add on, in 2021 the Ministry had planned to rehabilitate four of Zimbabwe’s foreign missions namely, Windhoek, Geneva, Paris and Gaborone as well as to purchase 3 new Chanceries and 3 official residences in Ankara, Kigali and Abu Dhabi. Also, to procure furniture and equipment in Pretoria, Maputo, Windhoek and Washington,” read the report.

“However, due to delays in release of funds as well as non-disbursement of the huge chunk of the Ministry’s total budget allocation, this was not fully achieved in 2021. In its fourth quarter submissions, the Ministry reported that renovations were work in progress at embassies in Nairobi, Maputo and Windhoek.

“Bearing in mind that, our embassies are at the epicentre of the engagement and reengagement exercise, a bedrock for attracting both foreign direct investments (FDI’s) and diaspora investments.

“The Committee observed that there was a need for the Treasury to fully release the budget allocation for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International so that the Ministry expedites the refurbishment and construction of Chanceries that befits the office of our Ambassadors.”

On a positive note, the Committee said it was pleased to note that the Ministry was implementing recommendations made in the 2020 Auditor General’s report.

These are disclosure of mission expenditure in the appropriation account, crafting a risk management policy, implementing a disaster recovery and the operationalization of the Ministry’s Audit Committee that was set up in 2019.

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