AfDB helps restore economic normalcy

adbHARARE The African Development Bank (AfDB) has donated 406 computers to Zimbabwes Ministry of Finance to facilitate the rollout of a programme to improve accountability in the management of public funds.

This is a key demand of sceptical international donors who fear their funds could be abused to finance the political activities of President Robert Mugabes Zanu (PF). Finance Minister Tendai Biti said last week that the computers, valued at more than US$400 000, were part of a US$2 million AfDB grant to help Zimbabwes eight-month-old coalition government reintroduce the Public Finance Management System (PFMS).

The balance of the grant is earmarked for the training of civil servants who will operate the PFMS. It is critical, therefore, that capacity building initiatives for the users of the PFMS be prioritised given that most of the experienced work force has left government structures, Biti said when accepting the donation of the computers in Harare last week.

The PFMS is designed to streamline the utilisation of public funds by improving accounting systems and promoting the accountability of public entities in the management of money and other resources. It is one of the requirements demanded by sceptical donors who have withheld funding for Zimbabwes coalition government because of allegations of rampant abuse of resources by the Zanu (PF) wing of the unity government.

Biti said the equipment would, therefore, go a long way towards ensuring that donor funds are again channelled through government and avoiding cases of parallel financing as is currently happening. The coalition government requires at least US$10 billion this year alone to finance the Short-Term Emergency Recovery Programme which ends in December. Biti expressed the Zimbabwe governments appreciation to AfDB for continuing to play a key role in assisting Harare to restore economic normalcy in the country.

The Bank Groups commitment remains unparalleled despite the fact that Zimbabwe owes the Bank Group over US$400 million, Biti said. The Bank has, under various windows such as the Emergency Humanitarian Assistance and the Fragile States Facility extended various forms of financial and technical support to the country. Resuscitation of the PFMS requires huge capital injections amounting to over US$4.6 million.

Besides the US$2 from AfDB other funding for the project has been received from the World Bank which gave US$1 million and the United Nations Development Programme which provided US$0.6 million. The balance will be sourced from other bilateral donors who have pledged to support the PFMS, according to Biti.

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