Covid-19 Exposes Weak Public Finance Management

From imposing a lockdown without an impact assessment on ordinary citizens, to setting up provincial taskforces without elected representatives, the novel coronavirus has exposed government weaknesses in handling a public crisis, Gweru Urban legislator Brian Dube has said.

Speaking during a virtual Public Finance Management Indaba organized by the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD), Dube said government is skating around transparency and accountability.

“The composition of the provincial taskforce, to start with, is questionable because it’s only a collection of top government officials, all of them civil servants, without the councilors or Members of Parliament.

“So the big question is who is going to hold them to account, when the elected representative of the people are not allowed to sit in such committees, recently a civic society representative in the Midlands taskforce was chucked out from the taskforce,” said Dube.

Dube lambasted government for its handling of the Covid crisis as divorced from the realities on the ground where families relying on informal trade are now facing starvation, increasing welfare demand on the central government.

He said implementation of the lockdown and imposition of an indefinite extension was not systematic nor scientific hence its negative impact which has increased levels of both urban and rural poverty, with devastating socio economic effects.

“There are serious challenges to people relating to how we reconcile the lockdown with the human way of life. This pandemic brought in a new dimension in life where you cannot interact, one cannot mourn your relative for example.

“Trade has literally been closed down for SMEs, new small factories are closed, and there is no furnace on. We are facing a serious economic challenge that has affected the economic wellbeing of families.

“Market stalls have been destroyed and vendors have no sources of their livelihoods, welfare demand from government has increased because people who had capacity to fend for themselves now have to rely on the government.

“The lockdown itself is a total failure, it was not scientific and systematic in its implementation, there is no community or family level impact assessment, the lockdown has put permanent negative impacts. It is a serious disaster,” said Dube.

ZIMCODD has been holding PFM Indabas to foster prudent management of public financial resources including the US$390 million raised so far from corporates, donors and development partners, as well as the ZWL$18 billion stimulus package unveiled by government.

Muchanyara Midzi, ZIMCODD, Research and Evidence officer said the virus will leave short and long-term effects on economies, and government should be held to account on how they use public resources during this unprecedented crisis.

Midzi said as civic society they are playing their role in establishing virtual platforms to enliven dialogue on prudent public finance management and advance transparency and accountability in the use of these resources.

“Covid is leaving long and short term effect on economies worldwide, and government have released funds to respond, our government has released a $18 billion stimulus package and we have US$390 million that has been mobilized, to respond to the effects of Coronavirus.

“As ZIMCODD we are making an effort to track the resources, to know where the resources are going, how they are distributed, whether they allocated in areas of need, to check if there is transparency and accountability in the use of those resources.

“These are the questions that we will be asking during PFM Indabas, a platform of civic society, policy makers and citizens to dialogue on the implications of the extension of the lockdown, explore implications from different sectors and go beyond to also make recommendations to the Zimbabwean government,” she said.


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