OPPOSITION Movement for Democratic Change Alliance vice president and former Finance Minister Tendai Biti gave an online speech on corruption in Zimbabwe on 18 July 2021.
Here, we check key claims from Biti’s address:
CLAIM: Zimbabwe is ranked 160 out of 180 on the Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index
“We are now ranked, by Transparency International, number 160 out of 180. We are the 20th most corrupt country in the world. We have overtaken countries that have been traditionally associated with extraction, such as Nigeria,” Biti said.
While TI has ranked Zimbabwe 157 out of 180 on its index in the last two years – 2019 and 2020, it is true that Zimbabwe overtook Nigeria in 2007 and has consistently fared worse in the corruption perception stakes since then.
CLAIM: Zimbabwe has lost US$14 billion through the Ministry of Finance
Biti said: “We know from the audited statements of the Auditor General that US$2.7 billion was stolen and lost directly through Treasury in 2017, US$3.5 billion was lost directly through Treasury in 2018 and the recently released audit report of 2019 shows a loss of US$7.6 billion lost through Treasury. So, in three years, over and above the budget deficit, around US$14 billion has been lost through the Ministry of Finance.”
The Auditor General, mandated to audit the financial accounts of all government ministries, departments, parastatals and local authorities, has, for several years running, voiced concern over how public finances are being managed in the country, especially by central government.
After recording fiscal surpluses between 2009 and 2011, under Biti’s stewardship of the national purse, Zimbabwe ran up budget deficits which widened from US$9.5 million in 2012 to US$2 billion in 2018. The funding gap was widest in 2017, when it was recorded at US$2.6 billion, or 8% of GDP.
The excess expenditure has seen the Ministry of Finance ballooning the unallocated reserves in the national budget. These are funds set aside to meet any unexpected expenses that might arise during the fiscal year.
In 2017, the Auditor General found that government had increased the unallocated reserves from US$31.52 million to US$3 billion.
“They (unallocated reserves) were increased to $3 019 137 531 through issuance of Treasury Bills and the URs were being disbursed to line Ministries,” the Auditor General reported.