THE Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) on October 31, 2017 hosted a meeting to discuss the proposed 2018 budget for the Harare City Council.
Attendants at the meeting included Harare City Council officials, residents’ associations from the Harare Metropolitan province as well as CHRA community coordinators.
During the meeting, residents raised concern over the Harare City Council’s failure to consult properly before coming up with a proposed budget which is now awaiting approval.
The attendants argued that due to the low attendance that characterized the budget consultative meetings, the proposed 2018 budget for the Harare City Council was not in any way responsive to the needs of residents.
Another issue of concern raised during the meeting was the failure by the Harare City Council to produce a report of the consultative meetings before coming up with a proposed budget.
In light of the challenge, CHRA Chief Executive Officer, Mfundo Mlilo said it was difficult to ascertain whether the budget reflects the will of residents as well as responding to the crisis in Harare.
“The budget ought to respond to the crisis in Harare such as erratic water supplies, poor road network and informal sector issues. But we have not seen the report on the consultation meetings and it’s difficult to say the budget responds to what the people said. We are unclear about the focus of the budget. A $269.3 million budget is not possible especially in the context of a bond note economy. In other words the budget is not realistic,” said Mlilo.
Mlilo reiterated CHRA’s position to reject the proposed 2018 budget saying that “if the process was not properly done, then the outcome is always contestable”.
He said the proposed 2018 budget does little to address the crisis in Harare and castigated the move by the Harare City Council to increase water charges in the proposed 2018 budget.
“We welcome the fact that the city removed fixed water charges but it’s like they are giving with one hand and taking with the other hand because the cost of water has been increased by over 150 percent. So there is a contradiction in policy here,” said Mlilo.
The Harare City Council acting Finance Committee Chairperson, Councilor Luckson Mukunguma admitted that residents had lost interest in council meetings due to a host of factors.
While accepting that low attendance characterized the budget consultative meetings, Councilor Mukunguma said that council had tried to match the budget with the performance of the economy.
Councilor Mukunguma however blamed the crisis in Harare on the economic woes in the country.
“As a struggling municipality, we cannot afford much but as far as the 2018 budget is concerned, we tried our level best to match it with the performance of the economy. Our performance as a municipality depends on the performance of the fiscus and currently we do not have a fiscus to talk about. Remember, we used to get grants from the government and we are no longer receiving these grants and that has complicated our situation,” he said.
Councilor Mukunguma bemoaned that there was no political will to solve the crisis in Harare while residents blamed central government interference among other factors, for stalling progress at Harare City Council.
Source: Combined Harare Residents Association