Diplomats stranded

Government has spent about KR16 009 620, double the budgeted amount in the first quarter in diplomatic purging and recalling of diplomats from its missions abroad that has seen over 200 diplomats recalled to pave way for the new crop of diplomats appointed under the new government.
Most of those recalled are now jobless and are stranded in Lusaka while the foreign missions are as bloated as cabinet with the new crop of diplomats who are either cadres or relative of the men and women in the PF government.
According to the latest release of the Treasury Information Brief on Budget Performance the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was expected to spend about KR8 583 511 in the first half of the budget year in foreign missions but by the first quarter, more than KR16 009 620 had been spent.
The ministry has burst its budgeted vote by almost 100 percent in the first quota with the MMD describing the overrun as a manifestation of the confused foreign policy by the PF government that had left many recalled diplomats stranded.
The MMD has warned that if the government was able to burst the budget in just about the first six months, it was possible that by the end of the budgeted year, the country would be in a 200 percent budget deficit.
MMD director of communications Muhabi Lungu has said it was not surprising that the PF budget had burst in the first quarter because expenditure in the regime was determined by President Michael Sata’s decrees.
Mr Lungu told the Daily Nation that although he had not read the Budget Performance government had released to rebuff assertions that the PF had burst its first budget, it was clear that there had been an overrun which had forced government to abandon most of the planned programmes.
Mr Lungu said it was expected that the PF had ran into a financial crisis because most of the decisions and programmes the government was implementing had not been budgeted for.
He said in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs alone, the expenditure had hit more than twice what was budgeted for because of the many new appointments in the diplomatic service while many other diplomats had been recalled without getting paid.
Mr Lungu said it was typical of the PF government to have burst its budget because expenditure was being dictated by President Sata’s spontaneous proclamations which were done without considering the budget.
He said President Sata and the PF government had no national plan that was going to guide them on how the budget was to be managed.
He said if the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had shot through the ceiling of their budget in the first quota, it meant that other ministries were in the same similar situations because government had been misapplying funds to programmes that were not in the budget.
“We are not surprised that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has overrun its budget just in the first quarter of the year because of the confused foreign policy. There has been a lot of diplomats that have been recalled and many other have been appointed without due consideration to the budget. The PF budget is dictated by what President Sata decrees and this is what the Auditors General office would call misapplication of funds,” Mr Lungu said.
Mr Lungu said for first time in more than a decade, salaries for civil servants were being delayed while many retirees were languishing because the government had failed to find money to settle retirement benefits.
He said the PF budget was in trouble and that it was going to be difficult to correct the situation because President Sata’s vision about development was impaired by the desire of numbers in Parliament and to appease those he was poaching from the opposition political parties.
He wondered what vote the PF was using in the implementation of the numerous unplanned programmes because the planned vote had been exhausted.
Mr Lungu has advised government to go back to Parliament and present another budget that would seen the completion of the programmes under the budget that had since burst.