Innocent Ruwende Senior Reporter
At least 68 percent of residents in the major towns do not understand the council budgeting process and only 30 percent participated in 2017 budget consultations in five major cities, a survey has revealed.
More than 65 percent of residents indicated that budget consultations do not have an influence on the final budget.
According to the Municipal Budgeting and Financial Management Survey conducted by the We Pay You Deliver (WPYD) Consortium, the three main reasons cited by residents for not participating are: not aware of meeting times (31 percent), do not know budget issues (13,8 percent) and not interested (13,1 percent).
The consortium consists of 10 organisations, namely Danish Church Aid, Combined Harare Residents’ Association, Harare Residents’ Trust, Bulawayo Progressive Residents’ Association, Habakkuk Trust, Women’s Institute for Leadership Development, Zimbabwe Women Resource Centre Network, United Mutare Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Trust, Masvingo United Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Alliance, and Diakonia.
According to the survey which was conducted in five cities, namely Bulawayo, Harare, Gweru, Masvingo and Mutare only about 29,8 percent of residents participated in the 2017 budget consultations.
“The two main cited reasons for this are: consultations are just a formality (35,2 percent) and councils do not listen to residents’ views (26,6 percent). About 62,3 percent indicated that they do not know where budget consultations are held,” reads the survey report.
“This indicates to the essence of local authorities and residents associations to disseminate widely the dates and venues of budget consultation meetings. The use of relevant social media platforms is of immense use in this regard.”
Apart from the low turnout, the quality of issues raised by residents is generally seen as poor across cities.
According to the survey, this emanates from the fact that many residents have a tendency to raise off-budget issues during budget consultation meetings.
The survey says this can be explained by two things: first, limited knowledge on budgeting issues on the part of residents and budget consultation meetings are the main platforms available to residents where they can raise their issues to local authorities (with councillors and other senior finance staff present).
“The effectiveness of budget consultations is questioned by residents. For example, about 67,1 percent think that budget consultations do not have an impact on the final adopted budget,” reads the report.
The aim of the survey was to understand local authority budgeting processes and suggest ways of increasing the participation of residents in the said process.