via Residents up in arms with City Fathers | The Zimbabwean 26 June 2014 by ERC Information
Concerned Kwekwe Residents have come out guns blazing hammering Councillors who they say sideline them on budget formation and planning. Angry residents demanded to be involved whenever the Kwekwe City Council is planning on budget issues. “Councillors seem to forget that they represent the voters when they are elected into office, and have the habit of designing development programs without consulting citizens,” bemoaned Lisa Zhange of Kwekwe Ward four.
The two day workshop hosted over the weekend by the Election Resource Centre (ERC) aimed at promoting citizen participation and sustainable dialogue providing residents an opportunity to hold accountable the elected Councilors. The workshop provided an interface platform between citizens from various backgrounds and elected Councillors to enhance sustained dialogue.
ERC – a think tank and advocacy institution on elections and democracy in Zimbabwe – has upped its efforts to ensure citizen participation on its efforts to ensure increased knowledge of accountability mechanisms that citizens can use to enhance transparency and accountability in council affairs.
Residents urged elected councillors to be non-partisan and represent all people regardless of political affiliation. Councillor Weston Masiya of Ward Three in Mbizo said residents should attend budget meetings. “If you have objections of the budget come to the meetings about budget rates and not complain after they have been increased,” Masiya said.
Masiya said Kwekwe town council needs about 1,2 million every month and US$19 million annually. He however said council is at pains to get the money since only “40 – 45 percent of residents or of rates users are paying.”
Councillors revealed that individuals within the committee do not have requisite knowledge of financial management and accounting, leading to possible manipulation of finance records by the Director of Finance.
An ERC official said the interaction between residents and Councillors improved residents’ grasp and understanding of local governance issues. “The workshop increased residents’ knowledge of accountability mechanisms that citizens can use to enhance transparency and accountability in Council affairs.”
He however expressed concern on some of the factors that are thwarting engagement between Councillors and residents chief among them dysfunctional resident association structures, lack of interest among residents on council business, corruption and failure by councilors to comprehend and understand budgeting and accounting procedures.