BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
FINANCE minister Mthuli Ncube has been urged to timeously disburse money allocated towards devolution after local authorities throughout the country complained that the funds were being released late, after being eroded by inflation.
This was revealed by the Miriam Chikukwa-led Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Local Government at the just-ended 2022 pre-budget seminar in Victoria Falls.
The committee said government should speedily align local government laws to the Constitution to ensure full implementation of a devolved governance structure.
Local authorities have been complaining that late disbursement of funds by Treasury was affecting procurement of goods and services, whose prices have kept rising as the local currency loses value against major currencies.
In his 2021 budget statement last year, Ncube allocated $19,5 billion towards devolution, which was supposed to be shared among the country’s 10 provinces based on poverty levels, quality of infrastructure and population size.
“Devolution funds should be timely disbursed for local authorities to implement their planned projects on time. An indication of how much will be disbursed is also critical to enable local authorities to consult the communities and plan the projects to be undertaken,” Chikukwa said.
“For accountability purposes, the Ministry of Local Government should ensure that local authorities keep separate accounts for their expenditure on the devolution funds and that which is generated by local authorities.”
Devolution is provided for under Chapter 12 of the Constitution.
However, to date, there is no enabling Act to operationalise devolution despite government approving principles of the Provincial Councils and Administration (Amendment) Bill.
“There is a need for alignment of all local government laws to the Constitution.
“The Provincial Councils Amendment Bill should be urgently passed into an Act to allow full operationalisation of the devolution agenda.
“There is a need for capacitation of all local authorities on the utilisation of devolution funds.
The envisaged Provincial Councils and Administration Bill will ensure that there is effective implementation of the devolution agenda,” Chikukwa said.