We are not wasting taxpayers’ money on travel- Mthuli Ncube

We are not wasting taxpayers’ money on travel- Mthuli Ncube

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Mthuli Ncube

Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said the government is not wasting money on travel, but is very prudent and has not authorized the purchase of vehicles for ministers.

He was responding to questions in Parliament that ministers and government officials live lavishly and spend big when they are abroad with one report saying when they went to New York, they stayed in the most expensive hotel in the city, Waldof Astoria.

“There is no lavish travel, there is necessary travel, and there is no travel by me or any other minister that I know on first class, absolutely not.  On the contrary, one of our budget priorities is to cut back on the travel budget and on general waste by Government. You will hear me mention or rather mention this very strongly in my budget statement,” Ncube said.

“We have various stipulated rates for each destination to which we travel, whether it is the United States, Europe or whatever.  There is a standard rate which is typically linked to United Nations and World Bank rates.

“So we make use of those rates in deciding on what level of allowances to provide to each member of the delegation and also depending on their level – that is the first point.

“The second point I want to emphasise that I am not aware of and neither do we live in lavish hotels; we work extremely hard and live within the means of the budget that we can afford but also within the travel allowances in terms of globally accepted standards as per the World Bank and UNDP rates.  I am not aware of the hotel that the Hon. Member mentioned, hence I cannot say anything to that but we were living within our means.”

Q & A

HON. MASENDA: The question goes to the Minister of Finance and it is in regard to travelling abroad by Ministers and Senior Government official.  We receive reports that they live lavishly and they spend big when they go abroad, yet there is an encouragement that ordinary Zimbabweans should tighten up their belts in terms of the economy.  The question is: what does this mean in terms of Government sincerity to improve the country’s economic situation? Thank you.

THE MINISTER OF FINANCE AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (HON. PROF. M. NCUBE): Thank you Hon. Member for the question.  On the issue of travel, there is no lavish travel. On the contrary we are very prudent as a Government. For instance on domestic travel in terms of vehicles, we have not authorised purchase of vehicles for Ministers.

Hon. Speaker Sir, I am talking about all travel.  So, locally we have not authorized the purchase of vehicles for Ministers so far and also for Members of Parliament.

On travel abroad, again, there is no lavish travel, there is necessary travel, and there is no travel by me or any other Minster that I know on first class, absolutely not.  On the contrary, one of our budget priorities is to cut back on the travel budget and on general waste by Government. You will hear me mention or rather mention this very strongly in my budget statement.  I thank you.

– [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear.] –

An Hon. Member having whistled.

THE HON. SPEAKER:  Order, order, I wish I had noticed properly the person who was whistling.  We are not herding cattle here – [Laughter.] –

HON. GONESE:  My follow up question to the Hon. Minister of Finance and Economic Development is whether he can inform the nation what policy measures the Government has taken in order to review, from a policy perspective, the spending on travel abroad?  For instance, it has been reported that the Zimbabwean delegation to New York was staying at the most expensive hotel, the Waldof Astoria.

I would like the Hon. Minister to explain to this august House and to the nation at large, what specific measures have been taken to review the allowances which the Hon. Ministers and their delegations receive when they travel abroad in order to tighten their belts as the Hon. Minister has indicated?

HON. PROF. M. NCUBE:  Thank you Hon. Speaker Sir, and I also thank the Hon. Member for that question.  First of all, we have various stipulated rates for each destination to which we travel, whether it is the United States, Europe or whatever.  There is a standard rate which is typically linked to United Nations and World Bank rates.  So we make use of those rates in deciding on what level of allowances to provide to each member of the delegation and also depending on their level – that is the first point.

The second point I want to emphasise that I am not aware of and neither do we live in lavish hotels; we work extremely hard and live within the means of the budget that we can afford but also within the travel allowances in terms of globally accepted standards as per the World Bank and UNDP rates.  I am not aware of the hotel that the Hon. Member mentioned, hence I cannot say anything to that but we were living within our means.

He also asked what steps we were taking to curtail this?  That is exactly what I had answered to an earlier enquiry by another Hon. Member which is that, in the Budget Statement we will be more precise in terms of our ideas about addressing the expenditure, overall whether you are looking at wage bill, travel and dealing with retirement policy.

Mr. Speaker Sir, all of this is contained in the Pre-Budget Strategy paper which I suspect Hon. Members have had sight of at least within their committees.  Next week we will have the opportunity when we are in Bulawayo on the 7th to 11th to discuss further and go into detail as to how we are going to deal with the issues that they have just raised which are very important.  I thank you.

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