The Ward Retention Fund, a Bulawayo City Council (BCC) community development initiative has reportedly failed with some councillors struggling to access funds for over a year.
The fund was established in 2015, with each ward retaining 3 percent of its monthly rates revenue collection to fund developmental programmes in their localities.
Discussing the matter during a full council meeting held on Wednesday, the councillors were divided on the implementation of the scheme.
Ward 9 Cllr Donaldson Mabuto was of the view that the project failed because the finance committee allegedly failed to disburse funds in time to execute the intended projects.
“I submitted my project proposal to the relevant offices in April 2022 but the money was never disbursed. The responsible committee really lets us down. We are being judged harshly by our community members because we have nothing to show for our term of office,” he said.
“We are nearing elections now and we need to account for the work we did, what will we say to the people? Some councillors here will be judged harshly in their wards because they did not deliver because of the ward retention fund.”
Alderman Ernest Rafamoyo said while the initiative was the failure to release funds affected its implementation.
“It was good and it is still good. If a councillor wants a certain project done they should do it at that particular time, following the laid down procedures. If a project was done it was done, if it was not done it was not done. We cannot keep saying we want to do investigations, they will not help anything. The committee has failed us, accept that and move on,” he said.
“The finance committee receives our money as ratepayers, and a policy was laid down to say 3% of that money should be remitted to the residents, but they did not give us. We initiated this because the situations in our wards are totally different and the councillor knows the best project they can do in their communities at that particular time. The problem is the project then takes two years to complete, which means that the money would no longer be enough when they finally release it.”
Ward 4 Cllr Silas Chigora said the initiative was good but the implementation was poor, and blaming the finance committee for the failure of ward projects is not fair.
“The initiative is good but the implementation was poor. The councillors were supposed to follow their projects through. If you submit a project and sit back there is nothing that will come out, councillors needed to be vigilant and follow through in relevant offices where the hold up on their projects were. Those who did not do their projects failed their own wards,” Cllr Chigora said.
“The projects are taken to specific offices and at the end, the finance committee releases the funds. Another challenge is that we were supposed to have a separate account for the ward retention funds. That way the finance committee would have constantly reminded fellow councillors whenever their finances came through to work on projects as quickly as possible before the money would get eroded by inflation.”
Cllr Rodney Jele and Cllr Tinevimbo Maposa weighed in noting that the initiative was good and should be treated with great seriousness.
They said due to inflation, the percentage should be raised from three to five so that they can get significant amounts of money for their projects.