King Mswati III’s Government has fallen foul of one of its most important aid donors, the United States, because it hides information about how its spends taxpayers’ money from the people.
In a review of the 2016 Swaziland budget, the US State Department found details about how money given to the Royal Family was spent was missing. Also hidden was detailed information about spending on the military, police and correctional services.
The Fiscal Transparency Report said some information about these expenditures were given, ‘but lacked detail and were not subject to the same oversight as the rest of the budget’.
The United States undertakes annual reports on ‘fiscal transparency’ of governments that receive U.S. assistance to ‘help ensure U.S. taxpayer money is used appropriately’.
The report noted that, ‘revenues from natural resources and land leases were not included in the budget’.
In Swaziland, King Mswati, who rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, takes 25 percent of all income generated from mining and mineral extraction. He holds this ‘in trust for the Swazi nation,’ but in fact uses the money to finance his own lavish lifestyle. He has at least 13 palaces, a private jet plane (with another on the way), fleets of top-of-the-range BMW and Mercedes cars and at least one Rolls Royce.
Meanwhile, seven in ten of the King’s subjects live in abject poverty with incomes less than US$2 per day.
Regarding, contracts for mining and mineral extraction, the report stated, ‘Basic information on awards was not always publicly available. The process actually used to award licenses and contracts has apparently been broadly consistent with the law or regulation, though the process has consisted of submitting applications for licenses directly to the King.’
The report concluded, ‘Fiscal transparency in Swaziland would be improved by: providing more detail on expenditures and revenues in the budget, particularly natural resource revenues and expenditures of the Royal Family; subjecting the entire budget to audit and oversight; and making basic information on natural resource extraction awards publicly available.’
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