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Zim govt both restrained and carefree in its spending. Civil servants get short end of the stick. – Technology Zimbabwe

We expect the National Budget for 2022 to be released soon. As expected, there was a pre-budget seminar where we found out how we did with the 2021 one. Parliament also got to interact with the Ministry of Finance on the upcoming one. There were some interesting revelations from the seminar, especially as regards payments, expenses and disbursements.

As we know, budget evaluation involves comparing what was budgeted for and what actually transpired. Any significant differences warrant investigation. Spending more than budgeted is obviously a problem if no compelling reasons are given.

On the other hand, spending way less than budgeted for signals flawed budgeting or other more worrying problems. However, in the context of an inefficient govt, this is what we would like to see.

Govt spending over budget

So far in 2021, the govt has spent a little more than what was budgeted for. In other news, water is wet. It is never a surprise when a govt fails to spend within its limits. 

From January to September 2021 the govt spent ZWL$350.2 billion against a target of $305.32 billion. Over budget by $44.9 billion, which is an overshoot of 14.7%. 

The Auditor General looked at the activities of the Treasury and found that there was unauthorised expenditure amounting to ZWL$6.8 billion. A supplementary budget of that amount should have been approved by the parliament. The speaker of parliament was not amused. 

I, therefore, urge the Minister of Finance and Economic Development to promptly engage Parliament and regularise this unacceptable fiscal anomaly. I further demand strict adherence to the dictates of the Constitution, the Finance Act, the Appropriation Act, the Public Finance Management Act and any other legislation that attempt [sic] to ensure value for money in the budgetary processes of our country.

What exactly did we spend the $350.2 billion on? 

Capital expenditure

36% went towards capital expenditures. You have no doubt seen some of the infrastructure projects the govt is undertaking, notably road rehabilitation, and $126.7 billion went towards that. 

It is this expenditure that is chiefly responsible for the depreciating Zimbabwe dollar as economists have pointed out. The beneficiaries of these funds are the same ones dumping the Zimdollars on the black market. We have discussed this before here.

Civil servants compensation

32% ($111.6 billion) went towards salaries and other compensations. There was a time when most of the government’s expenditure went towards salaries. It was unsustainable to have the wage bill exceed 90% of the govt’s revenue in 2019. Then came the ‘Austerity for Prosperity’ drive and we saw the reduction in the wage bill. In the first 9 months of 2021, the wage bill was 35% of the revenue collected.

While we appreciate that the wage bill has been reined in, it’s hard to celebrate that as a victory. In an ideal world we wanted the bill to be reduced mostly by removing the ghost workers that were (are?) on the payroll. And also for revenues to be increased so that there was more left over after paying salaries. 

However, what we got was just a freezing of civil servants’ salaries as inflation rocked the economy. Thus we find civil servants in effect got massive pay cuts through inflation. A teacher is earning about US$200 a month, which simply is not enough. When we consider that the US$200 is actually an increase from 2019 and 2020 we see that there really is no reason to celebrate the wage bill decrease.

A restrained govt?

What’s commendable is that the Treasury under Mthuli Ncube’s leadership is restrained in its spending. Yes, I know, we have just talked about spending over budget but hear me out. We have posted some budget surpluses in the last few years and it’s not all down to shortchanging civil servants.

Turns out only 38% of the budget allocated to parliament had been disbursed by the Treasury. Do note that at 75% of the year, only 38% of the funds had been released. If we are underpaying our teachers, it’s at least good to see we are not splurging on our MPs. The speaker of parliament was livid because of this though,

I, therefore, demand that the Minister of Finance and Economic Development to expeditiously implement the CSRO resolutions for the timeous quarterly release of funds to Parliament.

He makes the argument that an underfunded parliament is less effective and also is susceptible to losing its independence. You make of that what you will but I’m all for less funds allocated and disbursed to parliament. I believe that our MPs owe a duty to the nation and are able to finance their own activities in these difficult times for the nation. But what do I know?

It wasn’t just parliament that didn’t get its allocated funds. In the half year ending June 2021, we actually had a budget surplus of ZWL$570m. Most ministries had received far less than 50% of their budgeted funds at the half year mark.

Of course, the argument is that the ministries cannot possibly be effective when they are underfunded. On the other hand, they were hardly effective even when they were fully funded so we might as well starve them.

In closing

I know talk of national budgets is not the most exciting of subjects. However, this actually has a huge impact on the economy and so on our day to day lives as well of the companies we love in the technology industry.

In the next article in this series we will be zeroing in on the information community technology and courier services budgets and funds disbursements. The govt always seems to pay lip service to ICT. They acknowledge that it “plays an important role in the development of a nation and forms the backbone of industry in developing economies.” Talking about the Vision 2030 they said,

Given the increasing importance of the electronics, telecommunications and information communication technology (ICT) industry, the country therefore needs to strengthen its technological base in these areas in order to meet demands of the 21st century.

We will examine if they indeed put their (our) money where their mouth(s) are.

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Court Orders Ex-CZI Boss Zizhou To Pay US$180 000 For Sexual Harassment – New

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By Mary Taruvinga

FORMER Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) chief executive Farai Zizhou has been ordered by the High Court to pay his ex-personal assistant Rita Marque Mbatha US$180 000 damages for sexual harassment.

This follows a spirited fight by Mbatha over the past two decades after she was sexually harassed by Zizhou during her time of employment with the CZI.

Mbatha had claimed US$500 000 from both Zizhou and CZI. However the law suit against the CZI is yet to be finalised.

She worked at the CZI between 2002 and 2003 and Zizhou made sexual advances to her.

In delivering his judgment, High Court judge, Justice Martin Mafusire said he was impressed by how Mbatha pressed on against all odds.

She said  Mbatha, now an International Alliance representative, and human rights advocate was a strong woman who had fought for justice.

“The matter has had a long and turbulent history. Mbatha says the wheels of justice have turned ever so slowly for her. There can be no denying that. She has been to this court. She has been to arbitration,” the judge said.

“She has been to the Supreme Court. She is back to this court. She strives for closure. Any lesser mortal would probably have given up. Plainly, the Mbatha is no lesser mortal. Her tenacity and fighting spirit have moved mountains. She is still fighting. This judgment only settles her case. The other half still continues.”

Mbatha alleged sexual harassment of female employees at CZI was rampant, and said Zizhou was the sole culprit.

“The sexual harassment was over some nine months. It started when she was still on probation. She got employed by the second defendant in September 2002.

“She got fired in July 2003. It was an unfair dismissal. The first defendant (Zizhou) engineered it all. He schemed it. She had reported him for sexual harassment. He took revenge.

“The charges were inappropriate touching, unwelcome offensive jokes, invitation by innuendo to an inappropriate sexual relationship, receiving offensive telephone messages, receiving pornography on the computer, an attempt to kiss by force, causing an injury on the thigh in the process of resisting,” reads the judgement.

According to electronic messages submitted during the application, Zizhou pestered Mbatha to give in to an affair despite the fact that they were both married.

“Rita, I have used the above caption just in case. Please delete completely immediately after reading. Look at the time I am sending this note-just to show you I could not sleep before writing this note to you Rita.

“I love you very much and wish you could be mine. When I am taking a bath with Clara I always pretend it’s you. The torture is unbearable. It hurts me that when I touch your lovely hand you cringe and ask me to stop. Do I repulse you? I desperately need to kiss you,” Zizhou wrote in an email to Mbatha.

“Shamwari if I do get dismissed, it will be because I would like to do whatever I can for the person I care for most, you. Right now I am under pressure to balance the budget of CZI.

“You have just completed your probation and according to CZI rules, you are not eligible for the general increase for permanent staff, but the small adjustment that is in your appointment letter, I am bending the rule for you.

“Please hold on tight to me – if we crash – we crash together. I am awarding you the same percentage increase as everybody else. I am defending it against the treasurer this morning. Doing so will cost CZI an extra $3 million in employment and other costs for the three people involved.

“The others are lucky to be associated with you. This will wipe out the surplus we were going to make after selling the Land Rover. The treasurer had made his recommendations following the rule and I have asked Venek to make the changes before he comes for the final meeting this morning.”

Zizhou added: “I feel guilty as it is not right to expropriate you from your husband but unfortunately… Please God help me on this one as it has been giving me sleepless nights. You are the love of my love. I will do anything for you.”

The arbitral tribunal in March 2014 found Mbatha was unfairly dismissed and sexually harassed by Zizhou. Psychiatric reports obtained from Mbatha’s doctors noted that she was severely traumatised by the experience.

Justice Mafusire ruled Mbatha suffered severe posttraumatic stress disorder as a result.

“This condition manifested almost immediately after the abuse. She experienced recurrent involuntary and intrusive memories of the traumatic event. Her pain was acute, with chances of recovery rated as being very poor. Treatment would be extensive and indefinite.”

“She suffered physical and emotional pain, which scarcely suppressed anger. During the counselling sessions, she would lose track of her answers midway through and would ask that questions be repeated,” reads the judgment.

“Before the incident, she was engaging, outgoing, and loved reading. She had a good sense of humour. All that is gone. She experiences recurrent nightmares. Her sleep is broken most nights. She has lost all confidence in herself. There was another kind of collateral damage. She says her marriage broke up, largely because of the change in her personality.

“She says the situation was further compounded by the defendants’ conduct after her unfair dismissal. She could not secure alternative employment thanks to the defendants’ negative testimonials to her potential prospective employers. The plaintiff’s case seems such a textbook case. Manifestly, no amount of money seems adequate enough to compensate for her loss,” the judge said.

“The sexual harassment was persistent. There has never been an apology.

“Taking all factors into account, it is considered that the proper level of damages for the sexual harassment perpetrated by the first defendant upon the plaintiff during the period of the plaintiff’s employment with the second defendant from September 2002 to June 2003 is US$180 000, or the equivalent thereof in local currency, convertible at the inter-market bank rate at the time of payment.

“The first defendant shall pay the plaintiff the amount aforesaid together with interest at the prescribed rate from the date of this judgment to the date of payment. The first defendant shall pay the plaintiff’s costs of suit.”

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Civil servants get forex bonuses, decry high bank charges – The Herald

The Herald

Africa Moyo-Deputy News Editor

Civil servants’ representatives are generally excited that their members have started withdrawing their US dollar bonuses, but are upset that some banks are deducting significant bank charges despite the instruction that such accrued charges should not be deducted from bonuses.

These are bank charges of anything between US$100 and US$200 on accounts that were opened last year when Government was paying its workers a cushioning allowance in foreign currency. 

The account holders then retained the accounts although there was no money in them and the banks continued to levy charges, only collecting these when the bonus money arrived.

The levying of accrued bank charges is despite communication from the Ministry of Finance to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe last week that there should be no backdating of bank charges. 

In an interview yesterday, Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (Zimta) chief executive officer Dr Sifiso Ndlovu said while their members were getting their US dollar bonuses, the charges needed to be removed altogether since the forex bonus is a once-off cushion from President Mnangagwa.

“What I have gathered is that a number of banks have released the US dollars and people are getting it,” he said.

“But I heard that some of the money has been chewed by bank charges, which I think should not be an issue since this was a once-off payment. The bank charges are the downside to the excitement we have over the US dollar bonuses.

“The Finance and Economic Development Minister (Professor Mthuli Ncube) said he would look into the issue of bank charges and we duly call upon him to do so, so that civil servants take home all their money.” 

Permanent Secretary for Finance and Economic Development Mr Mr Guvamatanga last night said the ministry sent communication to the Reserve Bank last week directing that banks should not backdate bank charges.

Mr Guvamatanga

“Some of the foreign currency accounts were opened last year when Government was paying some US dollar incentives to civil servants.

“The accounts remained open and since then, they have been accruing bank charges. Now, some greedy banks want to backdate the charges to last year, but we have directed them not to backdate the charges,” said Mr Guvamatanga.

He added that some banks were lying to their clients that they had not yet received foreign currency from the Reserve Bank, for as yet unknown reasons.

A comprehensive statement on the payment of US dollar bonuses is expected from the Ministry of Finance today. 

Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Professor Paul Mavima told The Herald last night that the payment of US dollar bonuses was on-going although some employees have challenges with their foreign currency accounts.

Prof Mavima

“By and large, the withdrawal of US dollar bonuses is going on smoothly,” said Prof Mavima.

“But I have to say that the demand for cash is quite high and you see long queues for cash at banks. However, this is a good challenge.

“We urge banks to avail as much cash as possible to civil servants at one go, so that they minimise the number of times that people go to the bank to save transport costs.” 

President Mnangagwa decided on a once-off payment of US dollar bonuses for civil servants and Government pensioners to cushion them from the fluctuating exchange rates, which eroded the value of their earnings.

Government says paying bonuses in US dollars was ideal to ensure that they don’t take their earnings to the parallel market to buy forex, a move that would erode their earnings.

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RTG subsidiary creates revenue streams for social influencers – NewsDay

GATEWAY Stream, a subsidiary of the Rainbow Tourism Group (RTG), yesterday launched a platform that will enable social influencers to monetise their brand equity on the Gateway Stream platform.

The Gateway Stream is Zimbabwe’s one-stop online marketplace with nine sub-applications across a diverse range of products, services and experience.

Through the Gateway Stream Social Influencer, artists will be issued with an account and a promo-code and they will be able to sell all products found on the Gateway Stream platform and earn a commission from the sales.

In his address at the launch, RTG group chief executive Tendai Madziwanyika said they aimed to help social influencers exploit the valuable asset they had, that is, access to markets, in a way that ensures that they monetise their brand equity.

“Social influencers have what corporates want, a defined market and reach, which they access in an effective, cost-effective way,” he said.

“Through the Gateway Stream Social Influencer, artists will be able to sell a diverse product range found on the Gateway Stream platform from groceries, hardware, clothing, hotel accommodation, adventure activities, food and drink, and short-term insurance and earn a commission from the sales.”

Madziwanyika said it was time for social influencers to make money from their brands using music and entertainment as a hook.

“The sky is the limit for opportunities which our local social influencers can explore on Gateway Stream.

“Imagine just converting 1% of their following. They will be well on their way to becoming millionaires.”

Gateway Stream general manager Taremeredzwa Chipepera said so far they had registered over 30 social influencers, ranging from musicians to comedians.

“Instead of being just brand ambassadors for different companies, they can earn passive and perpetual income directly from their networks,” he said.

“This initiative is a mutually beneficial partnership that will drive traffic and sales volumes on the platform.

“We are driven by the desire to help social influencers gain greater value from their social networks.”

He said a follower of the social network would quote the promo-code when processing a booking or making a purchase on Gateway Stream.

“Once a member completes a purchase by way of payment, the agreed commission level for the specific product category will be credited to the social influencer’s account.

“The more sales the social influencer makes, the more money they stand to earn,” he said.

Chipepera said Gateway Stream was working on the development of a portal which would enable social influencers to have backend access where they can load their products, view transactions under their promo-code, track their commission and request pay-outs from their account.

“Besides the products on the platform, social influencers can also have an opportunity to brand and sell their own memorabilia such as clothing lines, perfumes, et cetera on the Gateway Stream platform,” he said.

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