BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
THE Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) has objected to plans by the local authority to conduct a joint virtual 2021 budget review and 2022 budget presentation, arguing the processes were critical and should be conducted separately.
A Bulawayo City Council (BCC) circular reveals that the local authority plans a two-day WhatsApp 2021 budget review and 2022 budget presentation, on September 29 to 30, a proposal that has been rejected by the residents.
In September 2020, the BCC attracted condemnation for holding WhatsApp budget consultations citing COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings.
Various stakeholders, including the BPRA, dismissed the virtual consultations as discriminatory against the poor.
In a protest letter to town clerk Christopher Dube, BPRA co-ordinator Emmanuel Ndlovu called on the local authority to re-think holding a joint 2021 budget review and 2022 budget presentation to ensure the two important processes “serve their purpose”.
“Our concern is combining the review of the 2021 budget process with the presentation of the 2022 proposed budget.
“The 2021 budget performance review is an essential process for residents to monitor the use of public funds by BCC and it will not be effective to combine it with the 2022 proposed budget presentations,” Ndlovu wrote.
“There is no reliable portal for residents to continually access information in order to periodically review the budget, thus this process is critical and should be given adequate time.”
Ndlovu said BPRA stood ready to organise public consultations on behalf of the council in view of the relaxation of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions on public gatherings.
“It is the position of the BPRA that BCC should rethink its decision on this matter,” he wrote.
“As the COVID-19 cases in the country have significantly dropped and public gatherings limited to 100 people are allowed, the 2021 budget review process as well as the 2022 budget consultation meetings should be conducted separately and physically to ensure the processes have value and serve their purpose. BPRA is willing to organise those meetings for BCC.”
However, Dube said there was no-going back on the holding of joint virtual consultations.
“We have to hold these virtual meetings because there is no time to consult people.
“It’s beyond our control because we have to target to submit the budget and we cannot submit the budget without consulting,” the town clerk told Southern Eye yesterday.
“The budget has to be completed soon, hence we have decided to forgo public gatherings. We also have to be mindful of COVID-19.”
The council plans to hold a budget review when city fathers have attracted questions over corruption in relation to the awarding of tenders and allocation of housing stands.
The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission has also launched an investigation into reports of graft at the local authority.
Follow Nqobani on Twitter @NqobaniNdlovu