THE WOMEN Affairs Ministry is struggling to pay a $1,2 million telephone debt due to inadequate budgetary funding.
This was revealed in Parliament yesterday by secretary in the Ministry of Women Affairs, Rudo Chitiga when she appeared before the Chido Madiwa-led Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Women Affairs to speak on her ministry's 2020 budget proposals.
Chitiga told the committee that the issue was also highlighted by Auditor-General Mildred Chiri in her 2018 audit report on the ministry.
In the 2019 national budget the ministry was allocated $44, 7 million and in the 2019 supplementary budget, issued in August, they got an additional $23 million.
"The Women Affairs and Community Development ministry was joined together with the SMEs ministry and what it means is that we have taken over some of the debts of the SMEs ministry," Chitiga said.
"As a result, our telephone bill now stands at $1, 2 million and this was an issue which was recorded by the AG," she said.
Chitiga said the ministry's travelling budget had consumed most of their budget as plane tickets were charged in United States dollars, as well as hotel bills that have shot up.
MPs from the Women Affairs Committee also expressed concern over the sorry state of the ministry's offices at district level saying that they were very poorly furnished. They also felt that the ministry should do better empowerment projects for women other than gardening projects.
Chitiga said from the supplementary budget of $23 million, a total of $5 million will go towards capitalisation of the Women's Bank and $12 million to the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Corporation, adding that the remaining balance was also too little to finance the operations of the ministry.
MPs said it was imperative for the ministry to be adequately funded to do outreach programmes for women so that they understand the implications of Bills that affect their livelihoods.
Madiwa said during public hearings for the Marriages Bill, her committee noted that women were ignorant of its contents and as a result they failed to contribute meaningfully.
She said it was important that whenever Parliament was crafting Bills to do with women, the Women Affairs ministry should be able to use its district structures to educate women about the new laws so that they give meaningful input.