CDF funding raises eyebrows

Source: CDF funding raises eyebrows | The Financial Gazette February 23, 2017

THE re-introduction of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) has been met with mixed feelings amid suspicion that it could be a ploy by the ruling ZANU-PF party to bankroll its 2018 election campaign.
The fund was first introduced by former finance minister, Tendai Biti, in 2010.
A year after it was unveiled, the fund collapsed due to budgetary constraints and the absence of a legal framework to govern it.
At the time, a number of Members of Parliament were accused of dipping their fingers into the fund, with many of the lawmakers failing the transparency and accountability test.
About four legislators were arrested by the Zimbabwe Anti Corruption Commission, and appeared in court facing charges of abusing the fund.
The cases later fizzled out because there was no proper legal framework to successfully prosecute the culprits.
Government is now seeking to reintroduce the fund through the Constituency Development Fund Bill which is meant to curtail abuse of the facility, according to Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa.
It now awaits consideration by the relevant committee of Cabinet and by Cabinet itself before it is submitted to Parliament by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is also the Minister of Justice.
Coming as it does ahead of the potentially explosive 2018 plebiscite, one school of thought is of the view that the money could be used to fund the ruling party’s election campaign.
Pedzisai Ruhanya, the director for Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, said the CDF was fundamentally a resource for propping up ZANU-PF since it enjoys an overwhelming majority in the National Assembly.
He said the party could be looking at consolidating its stranglehold on rural areas while penetrating urban centres where the opposition Movement for Democratic Change has been “donating” seats since the 2013 polls through its “no elections without electoral reforms boycott strategy”.
Ruhanya therefore sees the upcoming elections presenting a rare chance for ZANU-PF to gain ground in urban areas.
“The danger is that if they (aspiring MPs) fail to win the constituency, accounting for that money would be very difficult. CDF is a very noble idea, but the timing and sincerity leaves a lot to be desired. In the past, we have not seen the accountability and the money was used for personal development,” he said.
Government is currently failing to raise US$180 million required to pay civil servants their 2016 bonuses. It, therefore, remains a mystery where it would get the money to fund the CDF.
About US$10,5 million would be required for allocation to the 210 lawmakers in Parliament. Out of the 210 MPs ZANU-PF has 169 lawmakers.
Each of the legislators will get US$50,000 under the CDF.
With less than 18 months left before the 2018 elections, it also remains to be seen if the MPs would engage in any meaningful projects.
Makonde legislator, Kindness Paradza, was adamant that the fund would go a long way in bankrolling developmental projects.
But the Platform for Youth Development (PYD) is worried that this could be another opportunity for ZANU-PF to strengthen its hegemony on power.
“The CDF is a well calculated ploy by the ruling party to consolidate their power since they enjoy more than two thirds majority in Parliament,” said PYD director, Claris Madhuku.
“It defies logic that government failed to release the funds in the past four years citing budgetary constraints, but manages all of a sudden to secure the funds when the MPs are in the last lap of their term. Even if the MPs are sincere and want to develop their constituency, time is no longer on their side. They cannot embark on any meaningful projects in the few months they are left with to complete their terms.”
As if to confirm these suspicions, no clear direction is yet to be given to Parliament as to the logistical arrangements for the disbursement of the funds.