Treasury will procure more than 1 000 buses in the next two years, with 250 of them being available in the first quarter of next year, and 50 of those being electric vehicles running off batteries, as the Government seeks to improve the country’s public transport system.
This comes as Treasury has provided an additional $160 billion vote to ministries and departments in the 2024 National Budget to improve service delivery.
Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube gave details of urban transport improvement during the debate on the National Budget in the National Assembly last Thursday.
“A comment was made that certainly we need more public transport,” said Prof Ncube. “We commit in this Budget to procure another 1 000 buses over the next two years and the first batch of 250 buses will be expected to be delivered in the first quarter of 2024. We are committed to this.
“I have emphasised to my Permanent Secretary, Mr George Guvamatanga, and the Zupco executives that some of these buses need to be green buses; we need some buses that use batteries. We must show that we also need some progress as a nation. We need some green buses; I think they have committed to 50 at least, that will run on batteries.”
Prof Ncube was responding to inquiries made by legislators and reports from different portfolio committees, raising some inadequacies in the 2024 National Budget presented a fortnight ago.
“Having said that, of course, we have a limited budget envelope, so we cannot go towards the target of $100 trillion,” he said. “I listened carefully to the contributions from the committee chairpersons and some of the Members, particularly from the chairperson of the Budget and Finance Committee, Honourable Clemence Chiduwa.
“He passionately made a plea that we should increase the budget for Zimra and I concur with him. Therefore, I propose that we increase the Budget for Zimra by $70 billion.”
Equally, there was a passionate plea to increase the budget for one of the country’s oversight entities, the Auditor-General’s Office, especially in the area of digitisation.
For that, Prof Ncube proposed to increase the budget for the Auditor-General’s Office by another $10 billion. There was also a plea that the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development required more resources to support the cause of women and gender equity in the country.
SMEs need to be supported by building stores, to make it easy to formalise them for the Government to collect taxes in a more orderly manner, it was heard.
“So again, I was persuaded by that argument and we are proposing an increase to that Ministry of $20 billion,” said Prof Ncube.
He increased the budget vote for the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Development and Vocational Training by an additional $50 billion to help in fighting drug and substance abuse and attending to vocational training.
“There is the Ministry of Hospitality Industry, again the portfolio chair argues that we continue to treat this Ministry as if it is a department and I accept that,” said Prof Ncube. “I see great potential going forward; tourism numbers are looking up, and more hotels are going to come up.
“It is a sector that I also know well; I have been an operator in the sector. I must say that we had to do something for this Ministry, so I propose an additional $10 billion towards the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry.”
Prof Ncube considered issues affecting other ministries.
Turning to concerns about the slow pace at which cash is released to ministries, departments and agencies, Prof Ncube said Treasury had now created a new system where cash releases would lead budget releases, with the Government waiting for the money, mainly taxes, to flow into the accounts before spending it.
“We ask the Accountant-General first how much cash they are expecting in the next week,” he said.
“Therefore, we can only do budget releases to this amount. That way, budget releases will not run ahead of cash releases because budget releases are done by our expenditure department within the Treasury while cash releases, which is what matters, are done by the Accountant General’s Office. We will have that alignment going forward.
“It will remove all the headaches and not raise expectations for additional budget which then does not come because no cash is released.”