Legislators demand answers on devolution funds

Legislators, Wednesday, took to task Local Government and Public Works Deputy Minister, Marian Chombo, demanding answers on a number of issues relating to the devolution funds.

According to the constitution at least five percent of the national budget should be allocated to local authorities as part of promoting the devolution agenda.

Speaking in Parliament ,Wednesday, Umzingwane lawmaker, Levi Mayihlome, asked Chombo what measures had the government put in place to ensure devolution funds are always released to local authorities.

“The second part is: what is the government going to do about those devolution funds for 2020 that were not released to local authorities?” asked Mayihlome.

In her response Chombo said it was the responsibility of the Ministry of Finance to ensure funds are released on time.

“Also, there is a law that does not allow a roll-over of devolution funds that have not been disbursed by the end of the year. So whenever the end of the financial year is over, the funds that have not been released are turned to the Ministry of Finance.”

Mayihlome who was concerned with accountability of the funds was,however, not convinced by her response.

“The Hon. Deputy Minister here is passing the buck, pushing the blame to Ministry of Finance,” said Mayihlome.

“The communities that we represent want their pound of flesh like in the community that I represent, Umzingwane. They want to know why devolution funds for 2020 were not released and I want the person responsible for ensuring that those funds are released taken to account. Who is going to face that community and explain why those funds were not released because the pound of flesh is desired in my constituency.”

Harare North MP Allan Markham demanded to know who identifies projects to be pursued through devolution funds within provinces.

“The identification of projects is done from the community and mind you, these funds are not for consumption but capital expenditure like road maintenance, clinics and boreholes to uplift the livelihood in the community areas,” explained Chombo, adding councillors were also consulted.

Markham was also not satisfied with Chombo’s response.

“I do not know one councillor in Harare that has been consulted on the 2020 devolution funds,” he said.

As if that was not enough Harare East lawmaker, Tendai Biti, demanded to know when the government was going to enact devolution laws in order to fix all those challenges.

“The problem that is arising Mr. Speaker Sir, is that we do not have the necessary requisite devolution law,” decried Biti.

“The question to the Hon. Minister is why it has taken you more than eight years to come up with the relevant devolution laws so that the questions of accountability asked by Hon. Mayihlome and Hon. Markham do not arise. Where is the law Hon. Minister?”

Chombo however said devolution bill was among other bills to be brought into Parliament this year.

National Assembly Speaker, Jacob Mudenda then said: “I think the delay is being acknowledged Hon. Biti and that is why the Bill is on its way to this House. The delay obviously is not in the best interest of our good governance as far as the devolution funds are concerned.”

Source: Centre for Innovation and Technology (CITE)