GWERU residents have accused council of failing to publicise its financial records to enable them to actively participate in the budget formulation processes.
BY STEPHEN CHADENGA
Speaking at the launch of a survey report on municipal budgeting and financial management conducted by a consortium of 10 organisations on Tuesday, Gweru Residents’ Forum (GRF) board secretary Vincent Chakunda said it was important for the local authority to avail its financial statements to residents.
Chakunda, who is also a local governance expert, said allowing access to council’s financial data enables residents to actively participate in the budget formulation processes.
“Over the years, there has been low participation by Gweru residents in the budget consultation process,” Chakunda said.
“This is in part exacerbated by the fact that council does not avail its financial statements to residents. Such information can be published in the public domain, at municipal revenue halls or even as audited financial statements in the Press like what other organisations do.”
Gweru is among other major cities that have not been consistent in auditing municipal accounts, having last audited its accounts in 2013.
Chakunda’s statements were in response to city assistant director of finance, Owen Masimba, who had said the local authority withdrew its financial statements because residents’ associations were confrontational in their engagement with council.
GRF director, Charles Mazorodze said his organisation would engage council to ensure that residents fully participated in the consultation process for next year’s budget.
Presenting the survey report, a researcher at the Danish Church Aid, Davison Muchadenyika, indicated that their 2017 survey showed that from the residents’ perspective, financial misappropriation within local authorities was a big threat to service delivery.
“Thus as a strategy to allay perceptions and misconceptions, it is worthwhile for local authorities to consider publishing through websites and social media platforms their financial information,’ he said.
“These include budgets, monthly income and expenditure statements and debtors and creditors’ accounts, among others. Availability of financial information builds trust and confidence between residents and their local authorities especially considering that the majority of the local authorities, do not conduct regular financial audits.”