BY PATRICIA SIBANDA
BULAWAYO residents will this year participate in the 2021 pre-budget consultations for the city using virtual platforms like WhatsApp to ensure that the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) captures their views on the budget before the November 4 deadline.
The Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) has already welcomed the move, but wants the BCC to first furnish it with the city’s budget strategy paper or draft, so that they can scrutinise it and make their suggestions before the November 4 deadline.
Due to the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, Zimbabwe has adopted the use of virtual platforms for pre-budget consultations. Finance minister Mthuli Ncube has also told MPs that the National 2021 pre-budget consultations will be done virtually, unlike in previous years when MPs used to discuss the budget at expensive holiday resorts.
BPRA co-ordinator Emmanuel Ndlovu welcomed the move by the city fathers to engage residents through virtual platforms for the 2021 Bulawayo city budget, but demanded all 2019 financial records from the BCC so that residents can study them and make informed decisions.
“As BPRA we are already mobilising residents to participate in these virtual 2021 pre-budget consultations, and the use of WhatsApp platforms given that COVID-19 restrictions curtail public gatherings,” Ndlovu said.
“We acknowledge BCC’s efforts to avail the abridged version of the budget as well as the 2021 budget proposed tariffs, but as BPRA we further request for a complete 2021 budget draft so that we may study it and make our objections before the November 4 deadline,” he said.”
The BPRA also felt that the abridged version of the budget which is currently in the public domain did not provide useful information required for any meaningful analysis.
They also requested other financial documents in order for residents to make comparisons, and come up with their views on how BCC funds should be allocated in 2021.
“On top of the abridged budget, we are further requesting for other financial records which we believe ratepayers have the right to access in order for them to understand how public funds are being utilised. We are, therefore, requesting for current financial statement from January to September 2020, as well as annual financial statement for the year 2019 for comparative purposes,” Ndlovu said.
He said failure to make the requested documents available on time, the whole 2021 BCC budgeting process would risk being reduced to a mere window dressing exercise without the buy-in from residents. During the 2021 national budget consultations by the Parliament of Zimbabwe, residents stated that Bulawayo needed more than $1 billion from central government in order to solve its perennial water problems.