Councils rapped for violating budget requirements

The Ministry of Local Government and Public Works says it has approved 2021 budgets for 52 local authorities out of the 92 councils across the country with some failing to adhere to budget requirements.

Some of the anomalies include failing to comply with the devolution circular by not budgeting for devolution funds in their annual budgets, while only one council has an updated valuation roll and it was learnt many councils were not submitting tax to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) nor paying pension remittances prejudicing employees on retirement.

The ministry warned that those who flouted the law would face the music while councils that did not submit devolution budgets for approval will not receive devolution funding from the Treasury.

In a statement, Minister July Moyo said as at December 31, 2020, 52 out of 92 local authority budgets for 2021 had been approved.

“24 budgets were received in the last two days and were still being analysed and should be finalised by January 8, 2021. Of the originally submitted budgets two were referred back due to lack of compliance with either audit and proper budget requirements and these are Kusile Rural District Council (RDC) and Umguza RDC,” he said.

“A team of officials  from the Ministry is going to be dispatched to assist the two local authorities that are encountering challenges in the budgeting process.”

14 local authorities are yet to submit their budgets and of these Mutasa RDC, Mutare RDC, Makonde RDC, Mazowe RDC and Hwange Local Board are said to ‘perennially’ violate the Public Finance Management Act (Chapter 22:19 ) statute with regard to budget submissions.

The minister said in that regard, all local authorities that violate the provisions of the above quoted act will face the wrath of the Law.

“There are local authorities that are not complying with the devolution circular and have not budgeted for the devolution funds in their annual budgets. Those who do not submit devolution budgets for approval will not receive devolution funding,” Moyo said.

In utilising devolution funds, the minister advised each council to pay attention to projects and programmes that have a high impact on the livelihoods of local communities, taking into consideration population, poverty levels and infrastructure development.

“Each local authority must prioritise the most vulnerable communities. Focus must, therefore, be on the following areas: education, health, water, sanitation and hygiene, electricity roads and amenities in order to reduce walking distances to these facilities. Urban local authorities need to focus on water sanitation and hygiene to reduce the incidences of outbreaks of water borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid,” Moyo said.

The minister also instructed all local authorities to employ personnel with technical expertise  to effectively utilise the disbursed devolution funds saying this was due to an increase of the funds to councils and subsequent increase in capital and infrastructure development.

“All local authorities should have established estates accounts. Local authorities selling land without following proper procedures should desist forthwith in terms of Section 300 of the Urban Councils Act 29:15 and Section 128 of the Rural District Council Act (Chapter 29:13). Councils found abusing their estate accounts are violating the law and will also face the wrath of the law,” Moyo said.

In 2020, the local government ministry discovered that only one council out of 92 has an updated valuation roll.

“The 10 percent operational grant of devolution funds will be given to councils to update their valuation rolls in terms of part XVIII of the Urban Councils Act Chapter 29:15. Unaudited accounts lagging behind for more than a year like those of Harare and Gweru City Councils will need assistance to correct this situation which is a violation of the statutes. The approved budget shall be monitored by the ministry, Ministers of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Provincial Development Coordinators and District Development Coordinators and their staff in line with Chapter 14, Section 265 of Zimbabwe’s constitution,” the minister said.

Moyo said the ministry also noticed that many councils were not paying attention to statutory obligations particularly to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority ZIMRA and pension remittances, prejudicing employees on retirement and the ministry would liaise with concerned institutions to take corrective measures.

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