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Zimbabwe Top Officials Shave Off $3 Million in Foreign Travel

Government officials shaved off nearly $3 million in foreign travel costs in June after heeding calls by Finance Minister Tendai Biti to stop the expensive and unproductive trips.

According to the latest state expenditure reports issued by the Comptroller and Auditor General, government travel in the second quarter amounted to $10 million.

The government had set aside $12 .6 million for foreign trips during this period.

President Mugabe, who is currently in Iran attending the Non-Aligned Movement summit, normally travels with an entourage exceeding 80 people per trip.

In his midterm budget review two months ago, Biti said he was concerned about foreign trips by President Robert Mugabe and senior government officials which were draining the national fiscus.

Biti noted that from January to September last year, $45.5 million was spent on foreign travel while the nation was failing to cater for the needs of struggling Zimbabweans.

The country is currently failing to embark on various programs due to the tight fiscal space and drying revenues from Marange field, Manicaland Province.

Diamond revenues were expected this year to boost Zimbabwe's coffers by almost $600 million but so far the government has received less than $50 million in taxes and royalties from companies mining the gems in Marange.

South African-based independent economist Walter Mbongolwane told VOA government expenditure remains high despite the token cuts in foreign travel expenses.

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Meanwhile, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formation has released the names of 12 councillors who were sacked by the party this week for allegedly engaging in corrupt activities.

They include Harare deputy mayor Emmanuel Chiroto and his colleagues - Peter Marange of ward 42, Phumulani Musagwiza (22) and Xavier Vengesai (28).

Others are Gweru councillors Tedius Chimombe (9), Clemence Kwaru (17) and Holly Dzuda (2), Ivory Matanhire (4) of Bindura and his associates Vengai Mudadi (8) and Rickson Kaseke (11).

The MDC also dismissed Alois Zhou of Zvishavane and Kwekwe ward 11 councillor Johannes Ngodzo.

The MDC's national executive last Friday received a report from its deputy secretary general Tapuwa Mashakada who chaired a commission of inquiry, set up in March this year, on the operations of party's 10 councils.

The party leadership unanimously resolved to dismiss the councillors after they were implicated in shady deals including the illegal selling of urban stands.

"What has happened in Harare, Gwweru, Bindura, Kwekwe and Zvishavane is part of the MDC's broad anti-corruption campaign within and outside the party," read part of the statement released Wednesday evening.