Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) has urged Bulawayo residents to partake in upcoming 2020 national budget consultations, as their participation would allow them an opportunity to control how public funds are channeled.
This call was made during a Public Finance Management Reform indaba meeting by ZIMCODD in Bulawayo, Wednesday, to raise awareness on national budget processes at both local and national level.
ZIMCODD is currently holding indabas in different parts of the country to interrogate the current local and national budget frameworks with regards to citizens’ participation ahead of the upcoming budget hearings set to resume next month.
“Our meeting is to raise awareness on national budget processes. We want residents to be aware of budget processes and legislative instruments that support the formulation of a budget. This is crucial because preparations for the new budget are going to start in October this year,” said ZIMCODD’s programmes manager, Florence Ndlovu.
She urged residents to start drafting their ideas ahead of the budget consultation meetings.
“Planning a national budget is an important task and we urge citizens to prepare and be familiar with the guidelines. The public must also know when and where the public hearings would be heard, particularly the budget stages that they would be expose to,” Ndlovu said.
The programmes officer noted that it was such engagements were people would be enlightened on budget formulation.
“I hope this meeting was an eye opener to residents so that they start monitoring and exercising their oversight role to monitor public resources but also participate in the budget processes,” she said.
Ndlovu highlighted that failure to monitor budget, resulted in funds swindled through corruption.
“A reading of the 2018 Auditor General’s Report showed the rot taking place in public institutions. Citizens expressed their shock since a lot of money is lost through corruption and failure to follow procurement procedures,” said the programmes officer.
Ward 22 Councillor, Rodney Jele, who was also at the meeting, said there is a need to have decentralised venues for hosting budget consultations in order to accommodate residents from western suburbs, who often have to contend with transport challenges.
“Transport costs have become a hindrance as it becomes hard for residents to attend meetings held away from their localities. This then becomes a loophole as people’s voices are not heard. Once budget consultations are held at constituency level, residents’ participation will also increase at these meetings,” he said.
A Bulawayo resident, Mellissa Ndlovu, claimed that policy makers were to blame for low turnout at budget consultation meetings as they used technical languages that residents failed to understand.
“Usually when it comes to consultative budget meeting these Parliamentarians use hard jargon that twist our heads and this is one of the reasons why most of the time residents hardly attend these meetings,” she said.
In response, Ward 9 Councillor, Donaldson Mabutho, encouraged residents to at least partake in local budget consultation meetings for the city council.
“We call residents to attend budget consultation meetings but we are met with resistance, as they feel that each time we call for them, we want to hike rates,” he quipped.
“People must learn to attend such meetings so they can presents their views and defend their position. Nevertheless, we appreciate those who have reacted positively and submitted their views on how they want their City to be run.”