Inadequate funding cripples operations of commissions

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It is not enough. We would have welcomed a little bit more for our daily budget. The allocation is not the election budget. There are proposals we made for the elections, for instance for voter registration alone we need about US$63 million,

GOVERNMENT has failed to provide adequate funding to independent commissions whose major roles are to enhance constitutionalism by promoting transparency and accountability in public institutions as well as entrenching human rights and democracy.

By Wongai Zhangazha

According to government’s estimates of expenditure contained in the “blue book”, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa allocated about US$2 million or less to constitutional commissions such as the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc), Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC), Zimbabwe Gender Commission, National Peace and Reconciliation Commission, Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) and Land Commission, in his US$4,1 billion 2017 national budget.

The meagre allocations have brought into question the government’s commitment to fighting corruption and human rights abuses as well as the holding of a free and fair election. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), which is facing a number of challenges, including introducing biometric voter registration (BVR) and compilation of the voters’ roll before the 2018 general elections, a process that requires an excess of US$50 million, was allocated US$9,7 million.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has pledged to give Zec US$32 million provided the government avails US$18 million for the programme.

Zec is also under pressure to fulfil recommendations by regional body Sadc to implement the Sadc Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.

The Sadc 2013 election observer mission report highlighted that Zec should improve voter education and registration and ensure the inspection of the voters’ roll. Sadc also called for changes to the Public Order and Security Act as well as media and security sector reforms.

Zec chairperson Rita Makarau said the allocation was not enough to meet the daily operations of the electoral commission. She however said it was understandable under the harsh economic climate.

“It is not enough. We would have welcomed a little bit more for our daily budget. The allocation is not the election budget. There are proposals we made for the elections, for instance for voter registration alone we need about US$63 million,” Makarau said.

“There are a lot of resources that we will need in preparing for the elections. We need vehicles, equipment like computers, servers, printers among a number of things and offices to accommodate that equipment at district levels. We need more than US$100 million for the next elections.”

Zacc, which has a mandate to investigate corruption cases but has been complaining of being underfunded, was allocated US$2,1 million. The ZHRC, set up in 2009 under the inclusive government to investigate human rights abuses, was allocated U$1,9 million in the 2017 budget. The commission has over the years complained about vehicles and staff shortages and the lack of financial support from government, which have hindered the organisation from decentralising and carrying out investigations.

The rights commission has been heavily relying on donor funding. Zimbabwe continues witnessing countless cases of human rights violations, including those by state institutions such as the police, which require investigation. ZHRC chairperson Elasto Mugwadi said the commission was facing numerous challenges which were hindering it from fulfilling its constitutional mandate. He said the budget allocation was far below what the commission requested.

Mugwadi revealed the commission requested US$7,5 million from Treasury.

“We are supposed to decentralise. At the moment we are only operating in two bases, Harare and Bulawayo, yet we are supposed to be accessible to people at the grassroots who are in most cases at the receiving end of human rights abuses,” Mugwadi said.

“The commission inherited the responsibility of public protector, which office was abolished by the new Constitution following repeal of the Public Protector Act. ZHRC is also there to keep checks on government in respect of administrative justice delivery, and we are now able to investigate human rights-related maladministration complaints. However, we still have not recruited personnel to start this mandate.”

He said one of the ZHRC’s obligations is to monitor elections, a process he says needs to commence way ahead of elections.

“The activities on the ground indicate a lot of positioning of political actors. There are by-elections taking place and political rallies. We are supposed to be monitoring all of that but the resources are insufficient. We are hoping that our all-weather partners will stand by us and help cover some of these activities.”

The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission whose commissioners were appointed last year was allocated US$1,1 million.

Despite remarks by Lands minister Douglas Mombeshora that a land audit would be carried out in 2016 at a cost of about US$35 million, the Land Commission, which will be tasked with investigating a number of land issues, was allocated US$ 1,5 million.

No funds were allocated for the land audit as the ministry was given a paltry US$7,6 million. With the increasing number of gender-based violence nationwide, the Zimbabwe Gender Commission received US$1,1 million while ZMC got US$670 000.

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