Although the ministry provided the auditors with a schedule of how the unallocated reserve funds were distributed across ministries, government departments and commissions, the Auditor General noted differences in funds allocated and those accounted for by the various recipients.
“However, as at May 10, 2018 line Ministries had confirmed receipt of disbursements from Unallocated Reserves amounting to $637 010 651 giving a variance of $2 382 126 880.”
The Auditor General does not, however, make a finding that these funds were stolen.
Nor does the Biti-led Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which tackled the matter in 2019.
A report tabled by the PAC in parliament only goes so far as to rap the finance minister for failing “to present in the National Assembly, additional or supplementary estimates of expenditure and additional or supplementary bills.”
The PAC directed Treasury to seek Parliament’s pardon for unauthorised and excess expenditure.
For 2018, the Auditor General similarly found that the government, through the finance ministry, had overspent by US$3.2 billion. The Auditor General said the excess expenditure “was mainly related to Unallocated Reserves transferred to Ministries” by Treasury.
Unlike the 2017 accounts, the 2018 unallocated reserve distribution figures provided by Treasury and government departments largely matched.
Again, while her report flagged risks associated with excess expenditure, the Auditor General did not make a finding that the US$3.2 billion had been lost or stolen.
The latest Auditor General’s report, for 2019, also flagged excess expenditure, which also arose from unallocated reserves distributed to ministries.
Zimbabwe officially reintroduced its local currency in February 2019 and its budget for that year has been restated in Zimbabwean dollars.
The unallocated reserves for that year, ZW$7.4 billion, were stated in local currency, not United States dollars.
There is, therefore, no evidence in the Auditor General’s reports cited by Biti, of US$14 billion, equivalent to 67% of the country’s GDP, having been “stolen and lost” through the finance ministry between 2017 and 2019.
Continued next page