Chinamasa owns up to $10m error
• . . . restores 2017 allocation for varsities • . . . move helps avert chaos
Zvamaida Murwira:Senior Reporter
GOVERNMENT will review Treasury’s 50 percent reduction of budgetary allocation to State universities in the 2017 National Budget, Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa has said.He said the cut had been made in error. Minister Chinamasa also decried the high wage structure in the country, which he said needed to be looked into. He said other countries paid lower wages in US dollar terms.
On the reduction in the allocation to State universities, the minister said this would lead to an increase in students’ tuition fees if it wasn’t reviewed, while lecturers risked having their salaries cut.
He said the reduction was made in error, but queried how universities used tuition fees paid by students.
Responding to contributions by Members of Parliament during debate on the 2017 National Budget on Tuesday this week, Minister Chinamasa said the cut in budgetary votes for the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development was made in error.
He also proposed to increase the vote to Parliament to cater for unpaid allowances.
“There was the issue of the unallocated reserves in 2000 and I was surprised that it was $10,6 million. I am going to propose an amendment because there was some error that was done,” said the minister.
“I am going to propose an amendment to increase the vote of Parliament for the unpaid allowances from last year’s $9 million. The $10 million is already there. That will bring the Budget to $49 million for their vote,” he said.
“The amendment will also address the issue about a mistake. Maybe it is not a mistake, but whoever did it, in the estimates, the vote to universities was reduced by 50 percent. That was never the intention and is going to be corrected,” said Minister Chinamasa.
“What it means is that, by correcting it, it will reduce the amount in the unallocated reserve by the amount that is going to go towards collection of the allocation to the universities.”
Minister chinamasa said the error in allocation was never intentional.
“Let me make it clear, in my conversation with the Minister responsible for Higher and Tertiary Education, I am engaging everybody, every Minister, every department to understand what is going on and I pray and plead with colleagues and with whoever I interact with, it is not out of malice,” said the minister.
“With the universities, I know they collect tuition fees. I just want to understand and I ask this question, where is the tuition fees being applied to and to what purpose?”
Early this week, there was an outcry from the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development and vice chancellors of State universities over the reduction of budgetary allocation.
They said this would force an increase in students’ fees when they were already struggling to pay the fees at current levels.
On Tuesday Minister Chinamasa said he would make the necessary adjustments together with the budgetary vote for Parliament to cover for unpaid allowances.
The legislators slammed Treasury for taking them lightly despite the fact that the Constitution recognised Parliament as the third arm of the State alongside the Judiciary and the Executive.
Minister Chinamasa said he expected honest responses from ministries and departments when he makes enquiries.
“I would not want colleagues or any departments to feel defensive because we then cannot correct anything. We cannot continue to do the same thing and hope to achieve a different outcome,” said Minister Chinamasa.
“Let us understand what we are doing and if it needs corrections, let us correct it honestly. Let us have a constructive dialogue so that we can move forward. No one should feel defensive when we are trying to find solutions to our problems,” said Minister Chinamasa.
The minister also said one of Zimbabwe’s challenges was that its wage structure was too high compared to other countries.
“We do not compare with other countries. We are too high. These are United States dollars and not Zimbabwean dollars that we are talking about,” he said.
“In Ethiopia, it is US$100 per month for an engineer coming from university. This is also similar to Tanzania,” he said.
“If we compare ourselves with respect to competitiveness, where would an investor go? To Zimbabwe where you have to pay US$500 and Ethiopia is paying US$150? Right now in Tanzania, they are spending 40 percent of revenue towards wages. We are at above 90 percent. Let us understand those comparisons and we will see where we should be,” said Minister Chinamasa.
When legislators complained that certain ministries were being underfunded, Minister Chinamasa said he was working with available resources.