Enormous cost of bearer cheques shocks MPs

HARARE - Deputy Finance minister David Chapfika has been forced by Parliament to defend government's decision to blow Z$8,6 billion (revalued) printing bearer cheques that have dismally failed to tame Zimbabwe's rampaging hyperinflation.
Chapfika was challenged by Mberengwa West MP, Joram Gumbo t

o respond to opposition allegations that government had become the laughing stock for its profligacy in printing lower denomination bearer cheques in the vain hope that it could slow inflation.
Responding during a question and answer session in Parliament, Chapfika said the central bank blew $8,6 billion during the one-month countrywide operation.
“The operation cost $8,6 billion revalued, $4,6 billion of which was for capital expenditure and $ 4billion for printing of new bearer cheques and other operational expenses,” Chapfika said.
Opposition MPs said they were horrified at the cost of the operation and the decision to print a 1cent bearer cheque.
Chapfika told Parliament that as at August 22, 2006, which was the cut off date for the changeover, at least $35,1 billion had been collected from the public while at least $10,6 billion worth of old bearer cheques could not accounted for from various government ministries and departments.
There were howls of protest when Chapfika told the House that the central bank had subsequently written off that amount from its books, adding it had the technical effect of writing off costs incurred during the operation.
He also stated that 304 vehicles had been purchased for the operation.
The currency reforms saw the central bank lopping off three zeroes from the local unit to accommodate IT systems that had breached their digital handling capacity ceiling. People were given three weeks to swap their money to the new cheques and no one was allowed to carry more than $100,000 in cash in the course of doing so. Police set up roadblocks and literally seized anything over that amount – no receipts given. – Own correspondent

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