Finance minister Tendai Biti on Tuesday told Parliament the constituency development fund (CDF) for 2011 had not yet been disbursed because the money budgeted for that purpose was not there.
He said there was need to craft legislation to deal with the issue of the CDF to determine the amounts and purposes of the fund.
Biti said this while responding to assertions by MPs that allocations for the CDF should be increased as it was from that fund that poor rural folk benefited from projects by their MPs.
MPs had also threatened not to pass the 2012 National Budget if this year’s allocation of $8 million for the CDF was not increased.
This comes in the wake of revelations that out of $60 000 per constituency allocated in the 2011 Budget, not a single cent had so far been disbursed.
On Tuesday, Biti said the 2011 CDF monies had not yet been disbursed as he was operating on a stringent cash budget where revenue which was not yet realised was budgeted for.
“We appreciate the importance of the CDF, but there are gaps in that we do not have a statute to deal with the issue of CDF and this creates problems because it becomes a discretionary issue which is not within the laws of this country,” said Biti.
“We need an Act of Parliament that can define the percentage of resources which can be put towards CDF and the kind of projects that should be embarked using those funds,” he said. Biti said MPs needed to carry out projects that were physically visible so that it was easy to prove how they used the fund, as opposed to buying fuel for the constituency.
“Physical projects make accounting easier. We will see what we will do in respect of CDF because the problem is that there is no cash and even the $300 million used to pay bonuses for civil servants has not yet been found,” he said.
After the disbursement of the $50 000 CDF to MPs in 2010, it emerged that some of them failed to account for the monies.
During debate on the 2012 budget, chairman of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Budget, Finance and Investment Promotion Paddy Zhanda said Biti should allocate 1% of the $4 billion Budget to CDF.
“Funding of CDF should come out of the $62 million, which is part of the unallocated reserves,” Zhanda said.