By Nhau Mangirazi
FINANCE minister Mthuli Ncube has been urged to double the allocation of devolution funds to 10% of the national budget as stipulated in the Constitution as compared to the current 5%.
The issue came out last week in Karoi during public hearings on the 2021 national budget by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Budget and Finance led by acting chairperson Goodlucky Kwaramba.
The residents said the current 5% allocation was not enough to fund devolution. They suggested that the allocation should be doubled in order to improve service delivery which is a challenge in most local authorities.
Their concerns come at a time people in Matabeleland have been clamouring for devolution to be adequately funded. Councils have also struggled to get the 5% allocation stipulated in the Constitution from central government.
Bennedet Marengwa said: “We call upon the Treasury to increase devolution funds to at least 10% so that projects set aside for development can be completed on time. As much as we welcome these funds they must also cater for water and sanitation programmes that enhance access to clean water as part of achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that the country aims to achieve globally.”
Karoi Town Council chairperson Abel Matsika added: “These national budget consultations must be done on time so that if the devolution funds are pegged at the suggested 10%, councils will be able to plan their own budgets with this in mind. We need to move on the same wavelength with the national budget outcomes.”
He said the government should consider making foreign currency part of the devolution funds.
“I suggest that part of the money must be in foreign currency to make it easy for local authorities to purchase machinery, including equipment for roads as well as water treatment chemicals that are pegged in foreign currency. This will help in accessibility of clean water and improved service delivery in our communities,” Matsika said.
Philemon Chiripanyanga, the Karoi district information officer, blasted some local authorities for diverting funds to projects that were not part of the central government thrust on development.
“As much as these councils are asking for increased devolution funds, firstly, are they accountable to the same government that is giving them the funds? Do they even consult residents who have the right to know what must be done with these funds? We also challenge these local authorities to give feedback on what these funds have been used for as accountability and transparency is lacking on these public funds,” Chiripanyanga said.
Stewart Jena said allocated funds should be disbursed on time, adding: “These devolution funds are disbursed late and with the current inflation rate, some projects then increase in value and hence the failure to achieve some goals set for development in some councils.”