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Mthuli Ncube in trouble

FINANCE minister Mthuli Ncube and some officials in his ministry face contempt of Parliament charges after the parliamentary portfolio committee on Public Finance accused them of treating the august House with disdain.

This comes after Finance ministry's permanent secretary, George Guvamatanga, principal director for budgeting-PFungwa Kunaka and acting accounting general, Edwin Zvandasara failed to turn up to give oral evidence to the Tendai Biti-chaired committee to explain an overspending of US$10,6 billion from 2015-2018 before Parliament approves its Financial Adjustment Bill.

Biti told the media yesterday that his committee was expecting the officials, giving a final chance for the ministry officials to appear before his committee next week or face contempt of Parliament charges after they absented themselves without formal communication.

While Treasury officials had written an email to committee clerk Christian Ratsakatika, Biti said that was not enough as the procedure provides that they officially communicate with Clerk of Parliament Kennedy Chokuda.

"Regrettably, on Friday last week, the committee clerk received an email from Guvamatanga advising that they will be unable to attend because they had not obtained a legal opinion from the Attorney-General and also that they are busy with the mid-term monetary policy review … we express for the fourth time our extreme disappointment with the continued disdain of this committee by the minister and his officials.

"We don't accept the explanation that the AG has not given a legal opinion and that they are busy with the budget because they are not the ones responsible for that. We have therefore resolved that they should come again on the 20th of July failure of which we will instruct the Clerk of Parliament to issue a warrant in terms of Parliament's rules," Biti said

Biti said his committee intended to grill the officials on why they had not complied with the Constitution.
If a government ministry or department spends money in any financial year in excess of the amount appropriated, or for a purpose for which nothing was appropriated, the minister of Finance is required in terms of section 307 to cause a Bill to be introduced in the National Assembly seeking condonation of the unauthorised expenditure, no later than sixty days after the extent of the unauthorised expenditure has been established.

In this case, Mthuli was supposed to seek condonation for unauthorised expenditure incurred by line ministries of US$25 305 741 for the year ended 2015, US$1 530 890 050 for year ended 2016, US$4 562 064 123 for year ended 2017, US$3 560 343 130 for year ended 2018.

In June last year, the committee and the ministry consented to adjourning the oral evidence gathering to allow them to seek legal advice from the august House's legal counsel and Attorney-General respectively.

"We wanted to find out if it was legally possible for the ministry to seek condonation for the 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 in June of 2020 when it should have happened within 60 days. We had taken notice of the fact that this was unauthorised expenditure of unauthorised expenditure," Biti said.

In June, Kunaka had requested for a ministerial statement by Ncube to explain further on how they used the US$10,6 billion in four consecutive years which Biti turned down.

In one year alone, the budget was exceeded by US$3,5 billion according to the Auditor-General's report.

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