BY EVANS MATHANDA In 2013 Zimbabwe adopted a new constitution that guarantees devolution of power, among many other progressive provisions.
One of the ways devolution should be implemented is through the provision of annual cash transfers to the lower levels of government by treasury to carry out development projects in their respective jurisdictions.
However, there has been disinformation and confusion concerning the constitution in relation to the distribution of funds, and moving forward, this needs to be clarified.
Presenting the national budget for 2022, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube said he was increasing the amount set aside for devolution from $19,5 billion to $42,5 billion.
The funds are meant to be used to carry out a number of initiatives, including the building of hospitals and schools.
To maximise the impact of the devolution funds, the management must be improved to ensure that there is accountability and transparency.
To effectively use the devolution funds, the government should combat the impact of the country’s hyperinflation environment, and the recipient local authorities must have projects that are ready for investment.
The disbursement of funds to local authorities has, however, thus far remained a point of contention.
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It is easy to decentralise other forms of power, but financial issues are still largely managed by the central government.
Prioritising projects with incremental advantages by combining devolution funds with private sector financing to capitalise on each district’s comparative advantage, and supporting initiatives with catalytic potential are further strategies to increase the effectiveness of devolution funds.
In order to ensure proper management of the finances, it is crucial for the central government to encourage local authorities to collaborate with financial and technical advising organisations.
In general, the devolution funds are a game-changer with the potential to spur grassroots growth.
The procedure of allocating devolution money must include as much community participation as possible.
The main principle behind Chapter 14 of the Zimbabwe’s constitution is the democratic participation of all citizens in government.
Devolution aims to bridge the gap between the average citizen and the government.
Local communities must be involved in determining the development priorities that fit within their means as described in the constitution.
Communities are required by the constitution to actively participate first from problem identification stage through to project implementation, completion and evaluation.
Communities in remote areas have participated less. People need to be kept informed so they can determine whether the project they wanted to be done has been finished.
Office holders often sidestep the public, but when monitoring and evaluation processes are conducted, the public will speak up.
If they are constantly involved and their ideas are taken on board, this can be avoided.
Programmes must be developed by citizens, who want to see them implemented in their neighbourhoods.
All those issues must be listed, and the ones that will most likely benefit the majority must be given priority.
There is need for communities and not bureaucrats, to decide how devolution funds should be used as well as the projects to be undertaken.
The decisions made by the public must have a bearing on initiatives as they take ownership of the projects.
Development has to be a bottom-up strategy.
It is crucial for public servants to visit their particular wards and determine funding priorities with the local populace.
Instead of having a situation where the money comes in and then government officials decide what communities need, money must be directed towards the designated initiatives.
Devolution funds are designed to finance capital initiatives to help the most under-served areas with service delivery.
To the average person on the street, the money must appear to be functioning. When reviewing the projects people want tangibles, and not figures.
The money should not be used to cover operating expenses, pay salaries, or provide perks, something must happen on the ground.
Devolution funds need to be distributed quickly in light of Zimbabwe’s rapidly rising inflation environment to avoid a situation where the money becomes worthless before projects are implemented.
Those with access to the bank accounts may be able to reroute the monies if deadlines are not provided.
Project managers should be able to identify the project’s completion date and expected results.
- Evans Mathanda is a journalist and development practitioner who writes in his capacity. For feedback email: [email protected] or call 0719770038 and Twitter @EvansMathanda19