Zimbabwe’s legislators have asked President Emmerson Mnangagwa to appoint a Minister of Information for policy direction.
This was one of the recommendations by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media, Information Communication Technology, Postal and Cyber Security when it examined the 2018 budgets for the Ministry of Information and that of ICT.
Mnangagwa appointed war veterans leader Christopher Mutsvangwa as Information Minister when he unveiled his cabinet last year but was forced to reverse the decision when it turned out that he had appointed more ministers who were not legislators than was required by the law.
He made Mutsvangwa one of his special advisers.
The committee also urged the government to provide the $25 million for the digitalization project that it requested arguing that the programme must be completed by June this year.
Below are the recommendations for the two ministries:
HON. DHEWA: I wish to present the final report of the post-budget analysis by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media, Information Communication Technology, Postal and Cyber Security. I will start off with Vote 20, the Ministry of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services. From the allocation for 2018, there was an increase in terms of the budget of 708% …
Hon. Musanhi having passed between the Chair and the Hon. Member on the floor
THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: Order Hon. Musanhi, you cannot cross between the Chair and the Hon. Member speaking.
HON. DHEWA: In terms of the recommendations, in view of the above observations, the Committee recommends that:
1. The $125 million that the Ministry had asked for should be made available so that the Ministry can complete the digitalisation project and migrate from analogue to digital transmission.
2. The implementation of this programme is behind schedule and should be completed by 30th June this year.
3. The Ministry should fully utilise the film training school and generate some revenues from it through hiring and renting to other players in the media sector.
4. Also, the board for the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe should be appointed as a matter of urgency for good corporate governance.
5. The Zimbabwe Commission Board should also be constituted.
6. The Ministry should have a Minister for policy direction. Completed digital transmitters should be switched on because you are also aware that some of the transmitters have already been completed and are digital compliant but have not been switched on. Funds allocated to the Ministry should be disbursed timeously so that the Ministry can effectively execute its mandate.
7. The ZBC/TV should come up with content that attracts viewership and therefore advertisers for revenue generation.
8. They should also utilise available local skills base.
The Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services plays a critical role in the dissemination of information, promotion of public communication and builds the image of the country. For the Ministry to achieve these objectives and targets, there is need for adequate provision of funding from Treasury. The Committee noted with concern that the funding provided by Treasury is inadequate for the Ministry to achieve its set objectives for the fiscal year, especially the digitilisation project.
I will now move on to the Ministry of Information, Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services and Cyber Security which also in the allocation proposed by the Minister of Finance has got an increase of 65% compared to what they got last year.
The Committee recommends that:
1. The use of ICT be expanded to include rural areas.
2. The national fiber optic backbone should be expanded to all areas of the country. Critical works on the Zimbabwe Digital Broadcasting Migration Project should be completed within the current financial year.
3. The digitilisation of the television sites, construction of transmission towers should be completed and operationalised by end of June this year.
4. Digital services from the completed transmitter sites that have been completed have to be made available to those willing to utilise them.
5. Works on the National Data Centre have to be completed.
6. The Ministry should come up with one provider for internet services.
7. The Broadcasting Authority is a regulator and therefore Transmedia has to deal with issues of infrastructure.
8. The Ministry should be accommodated in Government premises to cut on unnecessary expenditure from the payment of rentals.
The Ministry of Information, Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services and Cyber Security plays a critical role in developing a knowledge based society with connectivity by exploiting the potential of ICT for sustainable socio-economic development. This is critical for the economic development of the country and the Ease of Doing Business. For the Ministry to achieve its objectives and targets, there is need for adequate provision of funding from Treasury. The Committee notes with appreciation the increase in terms of the allocation on maintenance and so on but there is still need to actually ensure that the demands from the Ministry are actually met.
This, however, does not cover the outstanding bills in excess of $5,3 million as at 31 December, 2017 of which $4,6 million is for TelOne which provides the public finance management systems data lines. The Committee therefore notes with concern that the funding provided by Treasury is inadequate for the Ministry to achieve its set objectives for the financial year under review. I thank you.