Effective public finance management systems are built on rules, processes and laws that authorities use to manage public expenditure, mobilize and allocate funds in a cycle. For effective public finance management, a lot has to be put into consideration but above all the system must be tailor-made to address the needs of the taxpayers. A needs-based approach is the mainstay of a government’s success in managing public resources.
In academics, the public finance management cycle is broken down into six parts which include; policy review, updating strategy and policy, budget preparation, budget execution, accounting and monitoring, reporting and auditing. All of this creates a finance management cycle that most nations use including Zimbabwe.
At this point in the cycle in Zimbabwe, the office of the Auditor-General recently released the 2019 report on how government departments performed on managing public finances. Issues raised by the auditor general in her reports should be considered and adhered to if the government is keen to improve transparency, accountability and fighting corruption.
In this report, the auditor general highlighted that only about 26 per cent of recommendations made in 2018 were fully implemented. In the preceding year, only 25 per cent of 2017 recommendations were successfully implemented.
The government must effectively activate its monitoring system within the cycle. A fully activated system contributes to its promises on public services and addressing the needs of citizens.
These statistics on their own present a lack of will by the government to right the wrongs that are pointed out in the report despite their promises to plug leakages and root out misconduct.
Misappropriation of funds continues to be the major highlight in the auditor general’s report, as it was during the Robert Mugabe era. In the 2019 audit findings, Treasury incurred unauthorized excess expenditure to a total of $6 806 340 654 through transfers made to line ministries without proper procedure taken as is required by parliament and Section 305(5) of the constitution.
Operations in the government are always leaving up spaces for corruption and unsanctioned use of public funds. Such actions are a direct violation of the fiscal contract between citizens and the government. The authorities must show citizens that they are willing to make a change.
It is disheartening to note that fewer and fewer people get arrested or brought to account for corruption and abuse of office.
The report comes against a backdrop of a World Bank report on Zimbabwe that indicated the addition of 1.3 million people living in extreme poverty increased numbers of extremely poor people to 49% in 2020. This trend can be attributed to the coming of the Covid-19 pandemic, but also to the government’s failure to cushion citizens.