BCC budget meetings marred by low attendance

The Bulawayo City council (BCC) has expressed concern over poor attendance at the city’s public meetings, saying residents were displaying an indifferent attitude towards key city matters.

The local authority has been holding 2023 budget consultations with residents and other stakeholders.

A meeting convened for Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), media and other stakeholders held at the Large City Hall on Monday was also attended by nine people.

Speaking on the low attendance the city’s corporate affairs manager Nesisa Mpofu said the residents had over the past years shown little interest in matters she described as critical in ensuring quality and consistent service delivery which is driven by the needs of the ratepayers.

“About two weeks ago, we put up notices in the print media while also sharing fliers and notices through social media. We also shared some invitation material with councillors who then distributed the messages via their groups in their respective wards. So we can rule out the possibility of poor communication in terms of messages not reaching the communities.

I think the challenge we have is not the short notice. The announcement and notice may have been sent at short notice, but as the people of Bulawayo, we need to continue to engage as these consultations are key in how we manage our city and also in terms of our budget for 2023,” said Mpofu.

She said the city had a culture of waiting to hear from others and said matters of public concern required the full input of residents.

“I think probably people are sitting and thinking let others attend. I will hear what happens in the end. However, the input of the residents is needed from the word go. Remember before we even had these budget consultations we had the performance review and the same thing happened again even when notices were sent earlier. Attendance was still a cause of concern so we are still engaging residents and residents associations and giving those notices. We are engaging stakeholders on the importance of engaging,” she said.

The city has tabled a standstill $158 million dollar budget, which the council has warned may result in reduced service delivery in some critical areas, as the municipality was already struggling with rendering some services in 2022, under a budget of the same figures.

An estimated 46 percent of the budget will go towards wages and salaries while 44 percent will go towards general expenses including service delivery, with the remainder covering maintenance, contributions and capital charges. 

The city has highlighted a possible increase in brain drain with Finance manager Isaac Matare noting that the city is losing its critical workforce in the fire and ambulance services to countries such as Dubai, while Nurses and Engineers are going to Canada and Europe.

“We have to work with what is available and following the feedback from residents that they are not willing to pay more, we foresee a reduction in the quality of services provided and this will likely lead to continued skills flight in some of our critical departments such as health, engineering and fire and ambulance services,” said Matare. 

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