Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
The Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services is not happy with the $2,5 billion it got in the 2022 National Budget, against a bid of $8,3 billion for it to cover a cocktail of projects such as digitisation and branding the country, legislators heard yesterday.
Zimbabwe’s digitisation programme requires about $7,6 billion against the $1 billion that was allocated to it by Treasury.
The ministry also requires resources to develop content, carry out national image building in line with the National Development Strategy 1.
This was said by Permanent Secretary for Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Mr Nick Mangwana, while giving oral evidence before Parliament’s portfolio committee on Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services.
Chaired by Matabeleland South MP, Ms Sipho Mokone, the Committee is expected to table a report detailing the implications of the Budget allocation to the Ministry and its departments during Parliamentary plenary debate.
In his evidence, Mr Mangwana said they had wanted a higher figure, but Treasury advised them to work with a budget envelope of $8,3 billion only to eventually allocate them $2,5 billion, the bulk of which will be gobbled by the digitisation programme.
He said the money was a far cry to what is required to complete their digitisation project, which requires about one million set-top boxes against 100 000 that have been procured to date.
Legislators were implored to help the ministry to lobby for more funds.
“We are unhappy with what we got. What we had put is not reflected on the Budget. This expenditure ceiling is 30 percent of the Ministry’s budget bid resulting in a gap of $5,8 billion, which translates to a shortfall of 70 percent.
“If we are to operate optimally, we will operate at 30 percent,” said Mr Mangwana.
“Of major concern are the funds that were allocated the country’s digital broadcasting migration project, Zimdigital project, which is already lagging behind by seven years.
“To complete the project, ZimDigital requires about $7 billion at the prevailing rate. However, $1 billion was allocated for 2022 translating to only 25 percent of the 2022 bid and 14 percent of the total amount required to complete the project.”
Warren Park legislator, Shakespeare Hamauswa, asked what innovative measures the Ministry was undertaking to close the gap for set top boxes, Mr Mangwana said they had engaged several organisations locally and abroad, but most of them indicated that they land the set top box duty-free.
Treasury, said Mr Mangwana, shot down the suggestion saying it created unfair competition. Mr Mangwana said the poor funding not only affected the Ministry’s operations, but for those State entities that operate under them.
He said they had District Information Officers in almost all the country’s districts some of whom covering four constituencies hence they needed vehicles to be mobile.
He said it was prudent that they get an extra $825 million so that they could effectively discharge their mandate.