By Daniel Phiri
LEGISLATORS have called on government to increase their salary perks to match that of ministers and the judiciary, at a time when the country is failing to adequately fund the response to HIV/Aids.
Owing to alleged financial constraints, Zimbabwe which is spending US$3, 6 billion from its US$4 billion budget on salaries, has literally surrendered its health funding to development partners and donors.
About 85 percent of national HIV/Aids response is catered for by development partners and donors, while Zimbabwe is accounting for a mere 15 percent through Aids Levy, however, legislators have not made noise about it.
Interestingly, it is Parliament that passes national budgets and has been allowing Finance Ministers to underfund the health sector since time immemorial.
This is despite the fact that Zimbabwe is signatory to the Abuja Declaration which demands that 15 percent of national budgets be given to health sector.
Legislators have never made noise about the Abuja Declaration or at least demand an increase to HIV/Aids funding, yet they are united in demanding salary rise and executive perks.
Speaking in the National Assembly Buhera West legislator Oliver Mandipaka said the perks that legislators get are not fair compared to the other arms of government and therefore there is need to revise them.
“…it is high time the authorities revisit the perks of Honourable Members of Parliament (MPs) because you cannot be asked to declare assets where you have nothing at all….
“I think it is paramount that the authorities, it could be the executive or the government or the nation at large to understand the problems that MPs face. The perks that we get, in all honesty are not very fair because the work that we do, we do quite some enormous work for the betterment of the poor in rural areas, but look at what we get in turn and nobody seems to care.
“Here we are, we are trying to adopt a code of ethics and I am asked to declare just a scotch-cart or a bull that I have. I have nothing, so, I think it is high time as we adopt the code of conduct; it is high time that the perks of those who are MPs remain honourable as well,” he said.
According to Zvishavane-Ngezi legislator John Holder Zimbabwe MPs are the lowest paid on the continent, getting US$75 per day while their counterparts in Zambia get US$445 per day.
Zimbabwe has a combined 350 legislators (National Assembly and Senate) who came into office courtesy of the July 2013 general elections.
There are about 1.2 million people living with HIV/Aids and only about 1.029 million are on medication in the country.
A month supply of ARVs for a single person according to NAC is about $7.16 which translated to about US$7 million for the number of people on the medication at the moment.
A few months ago, National Aids Council (NAC) finance director Albert Manenji said while the country is doing well on national HIV/Aids response, the funding part is performing badly.
“We are doing well on national response but we are not doing well on the money side. Each time we come up with new ZINASP we come up with new funding requirements.
“What is clear is that since 2015, the amount we have been collecting is less than the budget requirements. Aids respond to how the economy is functioning, if it’s not doing well, it also gets affected because it is tax-based,” he said.