GOVERNMENT has disbursed more than $2 billion towards multiple high-impact infrastructure development projects under the devolution programme during the first half of the year.
Treasury released $63 million to provincial and metropolitan councils, while local authorities received $2,1 billion.
This was Treasury’s first disbursement of devolution funds to provincial and metropolitan councils following their reconstitution through the enactment of Constitutional Amendment (Number 2) earlier this year.
In his 2021 National Budget statement, Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube set aside $19,5 billion for the devolution programme.
The bulk of the funds that have been released so far have been directed towards transport, education, health, electricity, social amenities, water and sanitation projects.
Local Government and Public Works Minister July Moyo said the constitution of provincial and metropolitan councils has injected fresh impetus into the process of devolving power to local communities.
“The democratic structures at provincial levels are the ones that were missing because they were not properly drafted in the Constitution, now that we have corrected it we have started implementing them,” said Minister Moyo.
“Provincial councils once received funds in the past, however, this was not procedural hence prompting amendment of the Constitution.”
While the Covid-19 pandemic has necessitated the reprioritisation of spending from infrastructure development, authorities have ring-fenced funding for critical projects that stimulate economic development.
In a statement, the Ministry of Finance said prudent use of the devolution funds will promote balanced socio-economic development across the country.
“Government distributed a total of $2,2 billion to provincial and local authorities for implementation of various projects consistent with the thrust of promoting inclusive and balanced socio-economic development in the country,” reads the statement.
“Some of the projects undertaken through devolution resources include building classroom blocks at Raffingora Primary School, procurement of a grader by the Makonde District Council and construction of market shades in Kariba.”
A schedule outlining how the funds were disbursed shows that the Manicaland Provincial Council received $8,7 million, while local authorities under the province received just over $200 million.
In Manicaland, the funds are being used to renovate Sakubva Stadium, upgrade the Dangamvura water pipe project and rehabilitation of the Mutare Infectious Disease Hospital.
Rural districts councils in the province such as Chimanimani, Buhera and Chipinge have used part of their resources to construct health facilities.
The Midlands Provincial Council received $8,3 million, while the local authorities under the province received $320 million.
Rural district councils such as Zibagwe and Vungu prioritised borehole drilling and procurement of road construction equipment.
Mberengwa, Gokwe South and North focused on health and education, while urban councils in the province directed the funds towards water reticulation.
The Mashonaland West Provincial Council received $8 million, while local authorities in the province got $270 million.
Masvingo Provincial Council received $7,6 million, while Matabeleland South Provincial Council received $6 million. The local authorities under the two provinces received $256 million and $315 million respectively.
Harare Metropolitan Provincial Council has so far received $3,9 million, while local authorities under Harare have to date received $123 million.
Harare has identified 12 projects which include upgrading and rehabilitation of the Morton Jaffray water works, rehabilitation of the Crowborough sewer system and improvement of landfill sites in the capital.
The Bulawayo Metropolitan Provincial Council has received $1,3 million with $76,9 million having been disbursed to the Bulawayo City Council.
Government has identified key pillars of infrastructure development which will underpin devolution over the next five years, namely, health, transport, water and sanitation, public amenities, education and electricity.
The distribution of devolution funds to local authorities is determined by each area’s population, the depth of poverty and the scarcity of social facilities such as education and healthcare, and the state of infrastructure such as roads.