Bill delay: Councils in funding limbo

THE delayed tabling of the Provincial Councils Bill has created new challenges for the Local Government ministry pertaining to the formula to allocate 5% of the national budget to the 92 local authorities as demanded by the new constitution to support devolution in the new governance charter.

Paidamoyo Muzulu

The ministry has failed to table the Bill to parliament since September when the legislature resumed sitting after the July 31 general elections.

The Bill will, among other things, operationalise the elected provincial councils since their creation by the new constitution was formalised on August 22, when President Robert Mugabe was sworn into office and the new charter came into effect in its entirety.

Section 270 of the new constitution sets out, among other provincial councils functions, that: “A provincial or metropolitan council is responsible for the social and economic development of its province and co-coordinating and implementing governmental programmes in its province.”

Local Government permanent secretary Killian Mpingo confirmed that with the delayed formalisation of Provincial Councils elected in the July 31 general elections the ministry was now working on a formula to allocate the money to local authorities.

“We are still consulting on how the not less than 5% of the national budget will be allocated to the 92 local authorities countrywide,” Mpingo said. “Before that clarity is established we cannot say how much will be given to each council.”

The outstanding Bill will also create a mandate for the provincial councils, establish the council’s secretariat and also spell out how the councils can spend money from treasury.

Mpingo said the ministry was finalising the Bill but was not certain when it will be passed.

“We are working on the draft Bill but its passing is subject to a number of other processes that we cannot dictate,” he said.

The provincial and metropolitan councils are still to sit since the July elections amid concerns that Zanu PF, which opposed devolution and now enjoys parliamentary majority, will not rush to put in place the institutions.

The MDC formations vigorously pushed for devolution during the constitution-making exercise.

Mugabe, in a move analysts described as usurping the powers of provincial councils, appointed ministers of state for Provincial Affairs when he announced his cabinet.

Zanu PF controls eight rural provinces while the opposition controls the economically powerful metropolitan provinces of Harare and Bulawayo.