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MANZINI – It’s been many years since government ‘devoted’ itself in fighting corruption through taking drastic and unpopular measures, yet no tangible results have been seen.

This is at least not the Ministry of Finance, headed by Neal Rijkenberg, which took the bull by the horns and took decisive decisions that have seen others being suspended and the closing of a trading account. For now, two ministries have been on the receiving end of the seemingly undeclared ‘corruption bust’ by the Finance Ministry. The Neal Rijkenberg-led Ministry of Finance took a stand through Principal Secretary Sizakele Dlamini, against the unlimited funding of the Central Transport Administration (CTA). This was done at the height of complaints that the department, under the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, had been endlessly receiving funding but failed to deliver services.


The CTA’s core functions include to purchase, maintain and dispose of government vehicles and other related equipment; as well as to provide fuel for government vehicles. It also rents vehicles for government ministries and departments. This department has five workshop facilities spread across the country and they are located in Mbabane, Matsapha, Nhlangano, Pigg’s Peak and Siteki. For the efficiency of the government machinery, through provision of transport, the CTA has been responsible for a fleet of about 3 000 vehicles, ranging from motor cycles, sedans, LDVs, trucks, tractors, to heavy specialised construction motorised equipment. Despite these responsibilities, the shortage of transport in ministries was rampant, such that government ended up paying millions of Emalangeni in renting vehicles. The shortage was said to be caused by shortage of automobile parts, which were, however, said to be paid for and or ordered by government. These spare parts would supposedly go missing at the department, as they were allegedly stolen by some of the workers.

In 2020, this publication reported that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) shockingly found car parts in personal lockers used by some mechanics and other employees of the CTA premises in Mbabane. In dealing with the supposed corruption, government engaged in a study to establish its fleet size and the viability of the fuel depots in the various CTA stations.
This was subsequent to stopping the trading account of the department in 2020. Also, government has moved in procuring its fleet through government fleet leasing and financing, which shall cut off the need for maintaining the vehicles.

On the other hand, the Rijkenberg-led ministry also sought to establish the root cause of the shortage of medical drugs and pharmaceutical supplies. In doing so, the ministry commissioned an investigation, which has led to a forensic investigation. This perpetual shortage of medical drugs persisted despite that the Ministry of Health gets a larger chunk of the national budget. As much as medical supplies are still in shortage in the public health facilities, the Minister of Health, Lizzie Nkosi, said the forensic investigation started in April 2023.
As the forensic investigation is ongoing, the government has recruited 11 people who are not in the civil service, to manage the Central Medical Stores (CMS) in the interim.


The recruitment of the task-team to manage the operations of the CMS followed that 11 employees of the Ministry of Health’s department were suspended. It has been gathered that the long-term intention by government is to adopt a system whereby medication dispatched to patients should reach them. The system, according to sources, shall lead to each patient’s file being linked with their identity and contacts such that follow-ups could be made independently on whether they had received the prescribed medication. The sources said at the moment, there were weak systems, which did not record the dispatched medication to patients, which resulted in unscrupulous personnel supposedly misappropriating the drugs. These strides in dealing with the government’s fiscus also came under the spotlight during a session of Finance ministers in the United Nations. It is worth noting that the incumbent Cabinet inherited a fiscal deficit of about E6 billion when they assumed office in 2018.

The 11th Parliament’s Cabinet was said to have dealt with the country’s fiscus through among other things, avoiding sourcing commercial loans but sticking to concessional ones. A concessional loan is a loan made on more favourable terms than the borrower could obtain in the market place. The concessional terms may be one or more of the following: A lower interest rate below (the most common) deferred repayments and or income-contingent repayments. This publication has established that at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic which was followed by the political unrest, Cabinet took a stand to grow revenue and reduce its expenditure. This resulted in a reduced national budget in three consecutive financial years, while there were no new taxes which were introduced, given that the inflation rate had soared.


During this period, government reassigned its budget instead of sourcing new funding. The restructured budget saw the funding of the COVID-19 programmes, which included immediate recruitment of personnel to administer care during the period and also sourcing supplies which were needed at the time. Also, with the assistance of private businesses, government established the Reconstruction Fund, which was aimed at assisting business establishments, which had been at the receiving end of arson attacks during the political unrest. The reduction of the budget, according to economists, led to minimal expenditure by government. They said this move was also essential, as it countered inflation which was necessary based on the exploding cost of living which was experienced during the period of 2020-22.

Also, the economists said the hiring freeze, which has been reported to have cut government’s expenditure from 42 per cent to about 34, contributed positively. The economists said limiting government’s expenditure was also necessary for bringing confidence in the business sector and investors. They opined that the confidence brought by this move led to some local investors expanding their establishments. As such, the International Monetary Fund in its May 4, 2023 Article IV Consultation with Kingdom of Eswatini Report, said the country had shown resilience to multiple economic shocks.

It reported that the real gross domestic product (GDP) contracted by a comparatively modest 1.6 per cent in 2020 but surged by 7.9 per cent in 2021, as manufacturing rebounded on the easing of COVID-19 restrictions and strengthened external demand. Directors of the IMF were said to have welcomed the authorities’ response to the pandemic and efforts towards reform and fiscal consolidation even during difficult times. The report states that they noted that while the economy will be buoyed in the short run by strong Southern African Customs Union (SACU) revenue transfers, the medium-term outlook remains uncertain given low fiscal and external buffers and macro-structural weaknesses.


“Directors called for continued fiscal adjustment to put public debt on a downward path, rebuild fiscal buffers, clear domestic payment arrears, and reduce pressure on the external accounts. While welcoming efforts to contain the wage bill, and the introduction of a SACU revenue stabilisation fund, (IMF) directors emphasised the need for a revised medium-term fiscal adjustment plan anchored on a primary surplus and supported by macro structural reforms to facilitate private sector-led growth. In addition to further reductions of the public wage bill, they highlighted the criticality of public enterprise reform and rationalisation of Eswatini’s tax expenditure regime, together with efforts to improve the social safety net,” reads the report in part. As government seals with its expenditure, the IMF directors agreed on the need for further reforms to public financial management, revenue, and tax administration. It was reported that the IMF directors further welcomed the authorities’ commitment to improving fiscal governance and saw the implementation of a Treasury Single Account and an Integrated Financial Management Information System as key.