Innocent Ruwende Municipal Reporter
Government has warned local authorities against spending money outside their budgets after audits made at the instigation of the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing showed that some councils were not sticking to their budgets. In an interview, Permanent Secretary Engineer George Mlilo said his ministry would be strict when approving local authority budgets to ensure they conform to the set guidelines.
“Since we introduced the 70:30 employment costs to service delivery ratio, we have seen some semblance of service delivery. We have done audits in towns, but we are still finding other payments outside submitted budgets.”
“All other agreements they have (councils) which do not conform with the budget requirements should be suspended or nullified,” he said. According to the new guidelines for local authorities budgets, councils are now required to present capital budgets of a minimum of 15 percent of total council budgets.
According to Local Authorities Circular Minutes No. 2 Item 9 of 2016 on Capital Investment Programme (Capital Expenditure), Capital Budgets should be a minimum of 15 percent and a maximum of 25 percent of the total council budget.
It is also the ministry’s requirement that local authorities should bring their employment costs in line with the 70:30 employment costs to service delivery ratio.
Government rejected the 2016 budget proposals from 26 urban councils that wanted to prioritise salaries ahead of service delivery.
Eighteen of these — among them Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare, Masvingo and Gweru — were ordered to revise their figures and some were approved after revision, while the rest were rejected outright.
Only Beitbridge, Chipinge, Gokwe, Kwekwe, Mvurwi and Rusape’s budgets got the nod.
Eng Mlilo is on record saying local authorities would not be allowed to spend any money as of January 1 next year without an approved budget.
“The key thing in budget preparations is that any budget must reflect 70:30 ratio in favour of service delivery. All salaries should be aligned to meet the ratio.
“They (budgets), should be in by November 5 for approval before December 10.
“0There will be no expenditure as of January 1 without an approved budget,” he said.
Service delivery has deteriorated in most local authorities over the years due to strained budgets occasioned by astronomical wage bills prompting residents to boycott the payment of rates.