The first of Harare’s 2015 budget consultative meetings is set to take place this Friday morning at Rainbow Towers, from 7:30 am – 10 am.
Presentations will be made by the Mayor His Worship Bernard Manyenyeni and Town Clerk Tendai Mahachi.
Council will be on their toes to start on time, after last year’s event saw stakeholders stage a walk-out when council representatives arrived an hour late even though the meeting was taking place at their very own Town House offices.
The budget meetings are scheduled to run throughout the city until 28 November, with a draft budget due for submission to government on 23 October. This late start has residents and ratepayers doubting whether the process will yield any positive results.
“The budget consultative meetings rarely start on time. Year after year they are delayed. By the time we hear about them, it is towards the end of the consultative period,” said Manford Zengeni, a businessman and resident of Marlborough. “I don’t think management at Town House is keen to hold them.”
The director of the 45,000 member Harare Residents Trust, Precious Shumba, said the organisation is mobilizing its members to participate in the process, especially on the topic of service delivery. He said there is a need to address the issue of the importance of the input of the residents and ratepayers in the consultations process. “Over the years, the city has not been able to adhere to projects proposed by residents,” said Shumba.
Previous Budget consultative meetings have been poorly attended, badly exposing the City’s communication and publicity councillors. Residents’ groups have always blamed the local authority for poor planning and failing to publicise meeting venues and times. “The process has been neglected by many residents, while management at Town House has been the major let down,” said Allan Markham, former CoH finance chairman. He said confidence building is essential for the process to be successful. “Except for the Chinese water rehabilitation project, which of course is a loan, a number of projects have not been implemented,” added Markham.
Collecting revenue has been the city’s predominant worry. Residents say the city’s glaring inefficiency in suppling water to the suburbs has been a cause of concern and the major reason why they had not been paying rates.
The 2014 budget seeks to finance the following broad programmes: the zero litter campaign, refurbishment of public toilets, social infrastructure rehabilitation (which includes playgrounds, halls, swimming pools and libraries), completion of polyclinics, construction of wheelchair access ramps on council properties and road maintenance: street lighting, traffic signals and pothole patching.
Council’s top revenue sources have been water charges, property tax, refuse collection and housing as well as health services fees. Most of it has been consumed by salaries, general expenditure, repairs and maintenance.
According to Corporate Communications Manager, Leslie Gwindi, the consultative meetings were supposed to begin on 8 August, when the Mayor of Harare, Bernard Manyenyeni, was to meet stakeholders, share ideas and input plans into the budget proposals. The proposals would then be on public display from 20 October to 20 November. From 21 to 26 November the acting finance director should be dealing with objections to the budget and factoring stakeholder input into the revenue and capital estimates.
From 12 August to 10 September heads of departments and councillors will be meeting with stakeholders through ward consultation meetings. “If the timetable is religiously adhered to the estimates would be submitted to Government on November 28th,” said Gwindi.
According to the Local Government circular Number 3 of 2012, all budget estimates should be submitted to the Ministry by 30 November each year.