The Bulawayo City Council (BCC) has responded to a petition from the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) calling for the local authority to explain the ward retention fund expenditure amid complaints from councillors that the fund was not reaching its targeted beneficiaries.
The ward retention fund is a development scheme, which entails setting aside three percent of all
funds received from payment of services billed to residents and channelling the fund to ward-specific development initiatives.
Last month BPRA acting coordinator, Emmanuel Ndlovu told CITE that the association had engaged the town clerk Christopher Dube requesting a break down on how the funds were used in some of the wards in the city.
BPRA said that it was concerned with wards 1, 13, 22 and 27 retention fund expenditure.
In a statement, the local authority said that it could not be possible to have disbursed any money for ward development in 2016 since the fund was operationalised in 2017.
“For purposes of clarity we need to elucidate that it could not be possible for council officials to have disbursed anything by way of ward development fund in 2017 at all as the fund only started operating in July 2017 and therefore the earliest possible implementation could only have been August 2018,” read part of the statement.
The local authority disclosed how the fund was disbursed to the wards.
“For ward 1 the total 3% retention as at the end of 2018 amounted to $959, 818 while the total expenditure was $97, 840 leaving a carry forward balance of $861, 977.
Part of the money was allocated to the rehabilitation of Jabulani flats as well as pavements in the CBD –10th Avenue at Mhlahlandlela, 9th Avenue / George Silundika, Fife Street and 11th Avenue”.
Meanwhile, the city council said the contractor who was awarded the tender to refurbish Jabulani flats had not signed due to price escalations.
The council added that contrary to objections by BPRA wards 13, 22 and 27 had also received their allocations.
“The total revenue allocated to ward 13 was $162, 256 whilst the expenditure was $9, 550 leaving a balance of $153,288 as at the end of February 2019 and that will be channelled towards the construction of individual household toilets. The purchase of an automated brick making machine has been done and it has been delivered.
“As for ward 22, the total revenue allocated was $70, 256 and was fully utilised and therefore exhausted. The reconstruction of access streets-earth work is complete”.
The local authority also revealed that the rehabilitation of access streets, traffic calming on main roads and servicing of tower lights in ward 27 have been completed.
“Ward 27 total allocated revenue was $150,396 and total expenditure amounted to $3,809 leaving a carry-forward figure of $146,587.”
However, BPRA has said that they will push for an audit of the 3% retention funds.
“We want an audit of the 3% retention funds because it is evident that the funds are being diverted to main council operating funds under the guise of ward projects,” said Ndlovu.
“90% of the projects they are citing should have been serviced from the council main fund (capital expenditure).”
“Secondly the response does not give reasons why the council does not plough back the money to the wards through other initiatives to ensure maximum benefit is attained at ward level.
Ndlovu outlined that the response by the city council is a clear sign that councillors and residents are clueless on which projects they can do which are also not covered under the council’s budgetary framework.