>> Country has too many MPs
>> Salaries gobble 92pc of budget
Indications are that only four sections of the supreme law are not up for discussion as they deal with the country’s founding values and rights of citizens.
Discussions on possible amendments will focus on cutting the number and size of statutory commissions and the legislature.
On Friday, Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa, a lawyer by training, told The Sunday Mail that the Constitution in its present form provided for a huge public payroll.
He said 92 percent of revenue was going to recurrent expenditure; and Cabinet had mandated the Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare and Finance portfolios to recommend ways of remedying this.
Zimbabwe has seven independent commissions as provided for by Chapter 12 of the new Constitution. These are the Electoral, Human Rights, Gender, Media, National Peace and Reconciliation, Land and Anti-Corruption commissions.
Only the Media and Electoral commissions are fully functional as Government searches for resources to operationalise the other five.
Apart from at least eight commissioners for each body, there should also be secretariats, offices and budgets to carry out their mandates. All of this is to be funded by Treasury.
Further, the country has 210 directly elected National Assembly representatives and another 60 women who enter the House via the proportional representation system until 2023. The Senate consists of another 80 members.
And Government has not yet even factored in the provincial and metropolitan councils created by Chapter 13 of the new Constitution. The provincial and metropolitan councils have not been created because Government is already struggling to fund House of Assembly representatives and Senators.
“We are frantically working hard to reduce that share of wages which is gobbling our revenue so that we have money left for our operations and capital (expenditure). The Cabinet has mandated Minister of Public Service and Finance to attend and come up with recommendations with measures that can be taken to reduce the wage bill.
“At 92 percent … it’s not sustainable. We need to basically have a frank discussion amongst ourselves and my strong view is that we can never borrow money to sustain our institutions. From a fiscal point of view, our bloated bureaucracy is not sustainable; look, we have so many commissions which all need to be funded from the Treasury,” he said.
Minister Chinamasa said the number of legislators was disproportionate to Zimbabwe’s population. He said the issue of revisiting the constitution was at the debate stage.
“Since I became Minister of Finance I became aware, more so now that … the new constitution has brought about a bloated bureaucracy, which from a fiscal point of view or budget point of view is not sustainable.
“I am particularly referring here to the many commissions that we created under this new constitution which all need to be funded from the budget. I am also, of course, referring to the bloated legislature (and) Provincial and Metropolitan Councils that we have created which also require to be funded from the fiscus.
“And of course you are aware that the numbers for our legislature were increased and when you look at these numbers in relation to our population, it is very clear that proportionately we have a higher legislature than is warranted by our population.”
Minister Chinamasa said because it was the Constitution that created the new institutions, it followed that amending the supreme law was the best way of normalising the situation.
The only other way of sustaining such expenditure would be, he said, getting external budgetary support.
“(This would) make us very much dependent on development partners for recurrent expenditure, something that should be avoided if we are not to surrender our sovereignty. So the point I am making, basically, is that we need a revisit of the constitution so that we … can be sustained by our own resources.”
The minister continued: “We should never (suffer) the fate of the regional and continental bodies that we have. I am referring here to Sadc and AU, which basically have to rely on external donor assistance to sustain their programmes as well as to sustain their institutions.
“If we go that route we run the obvious risk that we have in our midst institutions that we say are ours but which in fact are not looking after the interests of our people. We should never have a situation where our programmes and institutions are supported from outside; that undermines their independence, it also undermines our sovereignty.”
He said Treasury had been strained when trying to fund institutions existing before the adoption of the 2013 Constitution, and had only compounded the situation by creating even more bodies relying on Government revenue.
“In my view when we came up with this new Constitution we should have borne in mind the need for living within our means. We should have tried to cut our suit according to our cloth. I say so now because clearly I understand the budgetary pressures that we have to meet and I must provoke debate over whether we need this size of bureaucracy as we go forward.
“So I am saying let’s debate. Can’t we revisit the new Constitution with a view to trim that bureaucracy?
“I need to emphasise that in the event that the debate sways in the favour of revisiting the new Constitution we should regard Chapter 1 to do with founding provisions, 2 to do with national objectives, 3 to do with citizenship and 4 to with declaration of rights as sacrosanct.”
He said these four chapters were a “quantum improvement on what we had before”.
“So the message I am sending … is we must have institutions that we can support so that we can proudly say we are a sovereign, independent state. “The matter is still under investigation and consideration. When we think we have done the preliminary work we go back to Cabinet to present whatever options we might have come up with and we can’t discuss those options right now.”
The new Constitution was signed into law in March 2013 ahead of the July 31 historic elections which saw President Mugabe winning by an overwhelming majority. The Constitution-making process gobbled nearly US$100 million.
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