The Zimbabwean government really wants us to know that the country was recently ranked third in Africa in terms of budget transparency. The rankings were released by the International Budget Partnership on Open budget Survey (OBS) for 2021). Apparently, this is an improvement in rankings compared to the last report. Zimbabwe is below Benin and South Africa which makes it second in Southern Africa.

Anyway is the self-praising notice from the Zimbabwean government on the issue:

ZIMBABWE RANKED NUMBER 2 IN AFRICA ON BUDGET TRANSPARENCY

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1. I am pleased to announce that in the recently published report by the International Budget Partnership (IBP) on Open Budget Survey (OBS) for 2021, Zimbabwe has improved in its rankings.

2. Zimbabwe is now ranked number 3 in the Arica Region after South Africa and Benin.

3.The country is ranked number 2 in Southern Africa after South Africa

4. Globally, Zimbabwe new ranking is now ranked number 41 out of 120 countries surveyed globally, up from number 52 in 2019.

5.The Open Budget Survey is an independent instrument designed by the International Budget Partnership (IBP) in partnership with a network of researchers in 120 countries.

6.It measures various dimensions of Budget transparency and principally aims to measure improvements in public participation in the budget process as well as the timeliness and comprehensiveness of budget documents made available to the public.

7.The improved scores attest to the fact that Zimbabwe continues to improve on budget transparency and going forward, Government will continue to put more measures to improve budget transparency as part of its commitment of leaving no one ad no place behind in financial management.

8.I would like to take this opportunity as we together celebrate this positive development. to thank and encourage the citizens of Zimbabwe to continue to support and participate in the budget process.

Hon. Prof. Mthuli Ncube.

There is no sugar-coating it, things are not economically well in our beloved Zimbabwe. They have not been well since the GNU was dissolved back in 2013 but that has not stopped our government from alternating between denying there is an economic crisis as well as blaming that non-existent crisis on the war in Ukraine, sanctions, drought and saboteurs. Another favourite strategy is to talk up any and every positive thing that can be associated with Zimbabwe. The budget transparency thing is the latest such item.

Budget transparency is the low hanging low stakes fruit no one cares about

As already said there is a deliberate attempt by the government to talk up and amplify positives from renowned institutions while castigating the same institutions whenever they come with criticism or negative reports. The truth is that budget transparency is easy to achieve. It steps on no one’s toes because it simply measures how much is communicated during the preparation of national budgets. It also measures how much input the public can contribute to the budget.

Now that has never been Zimbabwe’s problem and everyone including those in power knows it. The problem has been what they do with the money after. Corrupt MPs steal community development funds with impunity while councils have not received what they are supposed to receive. No one knows where the money goes after it is budgeted. There is very little transparency in how the budgeted monies are spent and more often than not the government exceeds budget expenditure despite trying to deceive us with fictitious surpluses. Last month the Finance Minister tried to sneak in a proposal that would see parliament forgiving a $107 billion unbudgeted expenditure bill.

You can prepare a budget in full public view. That’s a good thing but it is not as good as making sure that money is spent on things that you said it would be spent on. That those who need the money most like hospitals get it. That no bigwig steals it. The government needs to go further and be transparent when it comes to expenditure.