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Government blew $50 million on travel by President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai

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Government blew $50 million on travel by President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, their deputies and cabinet ministers last month alone, according to finance minister Tendai Biti.

Biti told people gathered for a budget consultative meeting in Masvingo that top government leaders had ignored his advice to cut on travel as well as the large number of entourages that accompany government executives.

Residents who attended the meeting asked Biti to control runaway travel expenses, particularlythose involving Mugabe.

The minister said he was powerless to stop the trips.

“I do not understand why those who travel continue to go with huge delegations. It’s actually blatant, the size of delegations for outside trips should be minimised but these guys continue to do that,” he said.

“But I do not have the power to stop them as the minister of finance as such issues are approved by Cabinet,” Biti said, adding that so costly were the trips that Treasury paid out $50 million on foreign travels alone in September. The figure is equivalent to the money needed to buy Aids drugs for people living with HIV/Aids for the next five years, according to health officials.

Dr Owen Mugurungi, the Director for HIV and TB in the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, told a special parliamentary committee last week that Zimbabwe needs about $50 million in the next five years to take care of more than 1,1 million people living with HIV/Aids. These include 100 000 children.

Infuriated Masvingo residents told Biti that uncontrolled spending by top government leaders showed government’s lack of priorities.

Mugabe, Tsvangirai, their deputies, ministers and senior government officials have travelled extensively since the formation of the coalition government in February 2009.

The residents blamed the rampant travel for creating a hole in already depleted government coffers.

One of the residents, Farai Chinobva told Biti that the coalition government should put a stop to Mugabe’s travel excesses because he is abusing tax payer’s money.

“We want to know why you continue to allocate huge amounts of money to the President and his ministers when the country is reeling under a severe economic crisis. We want you to cut the expenses as they are not justified,” Chinobva told Biti.

“We cannot continue to watch these guys travel with big delegations getting allowances from government when Treasury is said to be broke. So we are saying that must be stopped,” said Chinobva.

“The big amounts of money used by these guys on foreign trips could be used to address hunger in drought-stricken areas such as Chikombedzi. People there are on the brink of losing life but you hear that millions of dollars were used to finance the President’s trip accompanied by over 20 ministers and other government officials plus security details,” said Chinobva.

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