Compiled by Eunica Pabwaungana Paralegal of Shurugwi Community Development Trust (SCDT)
In every community programs such as budget and finance are critical for both the educated and non-educated people. The educated communities may become more dominant than the less educated because they are more technical. It is up to the Government to put in place monitoring measures to make sure that the less technical are allowed and enabled to submit their views effectively on technical issues such as budgets. Even if the finance literacy is available or not but due to ignorance, illiteracy or lack of information people will remain marginalised. So, it is in these situations that people will identify those with the best interests of the community at heart. Those people such as non-governmental organisations who will be travelling up and down channelling resources towards educating and empowering people especially against human right abusers.
Friday 20th of Nov 2020 saw stakeholders gathering in Shurugwi at Tongogara Rural District Council (Ward 19) for a special meeting on Budget transparency hosted by the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association ( ZELA ) , Stakeholders included Community monitors , Businessmen , School Development Committees ( SDC) , Women , Youths , Councillors , Ward Health Committees , Zela Staff and people living with disabilities ( PLWDs)
After prayer and self-introductions the Council ‘s acting Chief Executive Officer ( CEO )Mr Chivaguri asked Zela to address the meeting but Zela highlighted that it has nothing to address for it has not come for any change or blaming anyone like the RDC but only to ask if the Council budgets are done transparently and effectively with Community participation. Also, if the priorities of the community are being met or any feedback for failures. The acting CEO requested that the Council treasurer Madam Ndiripo to read the guidelines for a review of the 2020 budget and the 2021 budget plans.
The guidelines state that, the Council has a 5-year strategic plan which is in line with the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1.After consultations by the finance committee they will seat for proposals with the full council. The budget is triggered by the ministry of finance in line with budget instructions. The tariffs from the Community are parallel, they are paid either in US$ or Zimbabwe $ but the inflation is affecting the budget performance. After all the planning, proposed budget plans will be published and stakeholders are given a period of 30 days to propose any alterations, this is according to RDC Act. The finance committee will then seat and discuss alterations or submissions made. This 2020 consultations were highly disturbed by the Covid _19 where gatherings were not permitted to exceed 50 people. This year,RDC consulted only 22 Wards out of 24 and this was done in two days ‘ time since there was a division of labour and enough human resources. RDC stated that some of the reasons why communities thought they are not doing well on service delivery are due to the following challenges;
1) They are receiving the devolution funds late
2)Community delays paying taxes or levies
3)Inflation in prices
COMMENTS FROM OTHER STAKEHOLDERS
1) Women and Youth no longer have confidence in decisions made by RDC.
2) Some people are particular on gender especially women (They are not free to contribute especially if its a man who is facilitating)
3) Some of the Communities are budget illiterate hence they do not participate effectively.
4) Lack of information on budget consultations dates especially in remote rural areas
5) Some of the people do not even know their rights (that they have a right to plan how public funds are used by RDC)
1) Ward Councillors should be capacitated to visit people in clusters and educate them on the importance of the budget before the finance Committee does consultations
2) Every citizen should lobby Government to amend the timeline 3. Government should improve on timelines (30 days for a budget to be altered is too little) does not allow information flow in rural remote areas who lack access to information, e.g.
the budget instructions reached the Council by 5 Nov 2020 and are expected back on the 20 of Nov 2020 this limits participation.
3)Rural communities should capacitate women forums to effectively participate in budget consultations.