By JOHN SAKALA
Minister of Finance Margaret Mwanakatwe has directed officials in the Ministry of Finance to implement a well-structured engagement strategy and clean up all the required data sets in preparation for Article 4 consultations with the International Monetary Fund [IMF] to be held towards the end of the current fiscal quarter.
Ms Mwanakatwe also said the targets set by the government in the Economic Stabilisation and Growth Programme [ESGP] and the 2019 National Budget will be a challenge to fully achieve unless the Ministry of Finance improves its service delivery levels.
The Minister was speaking during the senior management annual visioning and milestone setting seminar on economic policy, fiscal affairs and financial management, held at the ministry’s headquarters in Lusaka.
She directed the Budget and Economic Affairs Division to continue overseeing the policy engagement and consultation process with stakeholders such as mine houses and called for finalisation of a white paper and draft legislation for the Goods and Services Tax [GST], scheduled to come into effect on 1st April, 2019.
She seized the opportunity to urge the officials to ensure that professionalism, integrity, innovation, and diligence take root in the work culture of the Ministry and furthermore demanded that the staff should get rid of the habit of holding on to work and procrastinating on key decisions. To emphasize her expectation for improved service delivery, Mrs. Mwanakatwe further instructed the Secretary to the Treasury to implement the government policy on performance management for all directorates in the Ministry, expeditiously.
The Minister stressed that commitment and dedication to duty among her staff will be key in meeting the K56 billion total revenue collection target for the 2019 Budget.
She called for development of an effective mobilisation plan for the financing gap in the 2019 Budget and further instructed that the legislation related to the 2019 budget should be implemented promptly.
“We also need to ensure that non-tax revenue measures are implemented and well monitored,” stated Mrs. Mwanakatwe.
Among the Minister’s points of emphasis was the need accuracy in the production of debt related data, firmness in the implementation of debt and liability management plans, and a sound and practical sinking fund programme.
She pledged commitment to the deceleration of public debt accumulation and made a strong appeal to all to keep a close watch on external debt and ensure that obligations that fall due are serviced in a timely manner.
She also addressed the issue of arrears dismantling and encouraged the officials to work towards boosting private sector led productive activities by easing liquidity conditions through sustained dismantling efforts. “Among the priority objectives for the year, the treasury must focus on arrears dismantling,” the Minister said, and further instructed the officials that timely updates on the arrears position across different categories are needed for decision making on monthly funding profiles.
Concerning the Public Financial Management Act of 2018, the Minister has instructed the Accountant General to ensure that the law is strictly implemented. She has called for protective action in the management of public resources. Where infringement of statutory provisions, rules, and regulations manifest, the Minister has instructed the treasury to swiftly report the erring public officers to law enforcement agencies and professional bodies for sanctions.
“We need to take interest and examine the quality of expenditure incurred by different Ministries, Provinces and Controlling Bodies,” stated the Minister, adding that, “reports of wasteful expenditure should be pursued to their conclusive end.”
Mrs. Mwanakatwe emphasised the need to upgrade and strengthen public financial management platforms such as the Integrated Financial Management Information System [IFMIS]. She has instructed the Accountant General to ensure that all the remaining Ministries and Controlling Bodies are installed with the IFMIS system this year.
The Minister has said the development of an effective monitoring and evaluation plan for government investments is also a priority matter.
“I need a proper plan for supervising government investments, both under the Industrial Development Corporation [IDC] Group and directly under the Ministry of Finance,” she said, further adding that the government this year looks forward to receipt of more dividends for its investments.
Mrs. Mwanakatwe has also reiterated her commitment to engage both local and foreign investors on a frequent basis in order to improve information exchange on matters of mutual business and investment interest.
Those in attendance at the meeting were Acting Secretary to The Treasury Mukuli Chikuba, Accountant General Dr Dick Sichembe, Controller of Internal Audit Joyce Sundano, and all Heads of Department in the Ministry.
Secretary to the Treasury Fredson Yamba and Permanent Secretary for Budget and Economic Affairs Dr Emmanuel Pamu are on their annual leave.
This is according to a media statement by Ministry of Finance Head of Public Relations Chileshe Kandeta.