HARARE – Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa has rejected an appeal from an election watchdog which sought permission to petition Parliament on the “meagre” budget allocation to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) for preparations for the crunch 2018 general elections.
Section 187 (5) of the Standing Rules and Orders of Parliament require that petitioners on Money Bills seek authority from the Vice President or Finance minister for permission to proceed.
Money Bills solely concern taxation or government spending.
In a February 3, letter to Chinamasa, the Election Resource Centre (ERC) said the FinMin’s $9,7 million vote to the Zec was inadequate.
“Your request for permission to petition Parliament to reconsider Zec’s 2017 budget allocation of $9,8 million has been noted,” Chinamasa said in March 21 reply to ERC seen by the Daily News.
“Please be advised that the budget allocation of $9,8 million, excludes electoral requirements, and is mostly for administrative purposes.
“With regards to the electoral requirements, Treasury is already in receipt of Zec’s request for budget support amounting to $42,3 million for the conduct of the voter registration exercise in 2017. The requirement will be funded from unallocated reserves in the 2017 approved national budget and will be availed in line with the Zec’s cash flow plans.
“Furthermore, funding requirements for the conduct of the 2018 harmonised general elections will be provided by government through the 2018 national budget.”
As expected, the budget stuck by the broke government’s pledge to live within its means, offering little in the way of poll preparations — including nationwide voter registration and related election administration exercises — despite the looming 2018 election.
This year’s spending plan had an unusually high degree of difficulty as it effectively doubles as the launch of an unofficial election campaign as the country hurtles towards the key local government, parliamentary and presidential elections.
“Considering the work that Zec is constitutionally expected to administer, it is our view that the resources availed so far are not adequate for the electoral management body to conduct credible electoral processes,” Tawanda Chimhini, the ERC executive director said in the letter to Chinamasa, that was also copied to Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, the two Vice Presidents Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko, the Clerk of Parliament, the parliamentary portfolio committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, the chief whips of Zanu PF, mainstream MDC and the smaller MDC.
“Clearly, the budget presented to Zec is not adequate to support the election roadmap which was recently announced by the commission chairperson, Justice Rita Makarau.
“Without adequate support, delivery of such key electoral processes like the impending biometric voter registration, voter education and subsequent polling is likely to compromise quality and set the ground for undesirable disputes.”
ERC said elections were a process not an event and therefore require sufficient preparations and funding.