By Tichaona Sibanda
12 March 2013
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s (ZEC) $85 million budget to stage this Saturday’s referendum was excessive and government had to scale it down to realistic levels, Finance Minister Tendai Biti has said. He has reduced the budget by $10 million.
Biti told journalists in Harare that he held a lengthy meeting with President Robert Mugabe last week, where they decided to streamline the ZEC budget. Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa also attended the meeting.
The Finance minister emphasized that the economy did not have the capacity to finance the referendum and elections this year. He said they have already given $31 million to ZEC, which was essential to cover all the core costs that will allow the referendum to go ahead on Saturday.
The Minister broke down the money they gave ZEC as follows: $2 million for indelible ink and ballot papers; $2.5 million for voter education pamphlets; $3.5 for referendum materials; $3 million vehicle hire; half a million for training and $20 million for administrative issues, of which $5 million will be used to support the police.
Biti said during discussions with Mugabe and Chinamasa it was agreed to slash the allowances that will be paid to election officials manning the polling stations.
‘We are rationalising, particularly on allowances, scaling down costs to realistic levels. From that point of view, we are ready for the referendum. The bulk of what we have not covered is largely the allowances of the people who will be manning the polling stations,’ he said.
Minister Biti said it was important to streamline the referendum budget as they considered the ZEC budget too excessive.
‘Government recognizes the need for us to operate within our own means with regards to the referendum. A combination of measures to rationalize payment of allowances, containing the period of activities and personnel requirements to the barest minimum will reduce next week’s referendum requirements to under US$75 million,’ he said.