Cut Down On Foreign Trips Expenditure: Biti

Speaking at the unveiling ceremony of the 2011-12 national budget, Biti said government officials had blown in excess of US$30 million in foreign travel in the first six months of the year.

“As I present this budget, without even including the July figures, we have spent over US$30 million in foreign trips alone,” said Biti.

“This remains a concern that we call upon the leaders of the government as well as fellow ministers to look into because the expenditure, in relation to foreign travel alone, has remained relatively high,” he said.

Biti also said the call to cut down on foreign travel expenditure was premised on the fact that while it was essential for government leaders and their officials to travel for other government missions, the expenditure would have to be managed to as to enable the government to meet other demands.

“When you look at other sectors like education, they also need funding from this same budget. We have 13 million people who depend solely on the provisions from the same budget.

“We have civil servants who also expect something from the budget. This tells you how important we have to deal with this disease called foreign travel. We are desperate to ensure that this is managed properly,” Biti added.

Meanwhile, Biti revealed that government had collected US$1, 352 billion through taxes in the first six months of the year.

“From the US$2, 7 billion that we had set out to collect this year, we have so far collected US$1, 352 billion through taxes.

“While we are limping in our collections, I would like to assure you, Mr. Speaker, and members of this house, that we are still on course to collect the other remaining chunk that we set out to collect. We will be able to meet the targets that we set out in the 2011 budget,” Biti said.

Major contributors to the US$1, 352 billion collected by government were Value Added Tax (32%), Pay-As-You-Earn (20%), Customs (12%) and Corporate Tax (10%).

Biti also reiterated the need for the government to conclude issues such as the land audit and the land reform programme which he said needed “finality.”

“There are issues also to do with the government workers where we need to expedite and conclude the civil service audit exercise. The reason is simple that we need to adequately remunerate our civil servants and the best way is to remove those ghost civil servants so that we channel the funds to the deserving civil servants,” said Biti.