Residents in Harare have expressed dissatisfaction with council’s 2016 budget consultation meetings that were held last month. Budget consultations, which are mandatory under the Urban Councils Act, are held annually in every ward by council to hear residents’ priority concerns which they would like to be considered in the budget. The budget consultation meetings also provide an opportunity for council to report back to residents on council’s financial performance over the previous year.
The budget consultation process is the most important engagement between council and residents, helping to promote transparency regarding expenditure. However, some residents have complained that it seems council does not treat the budget consultation process with the importance it deserves.
Sharon Magodyo, the Community Coordinator for Harare Residents Trust (HRT), alleged that residents were not satisfied with the conduct of some council officials during the consultation meetings, citing a case at a meeting that was held in Mufakose’s Ward 35.
“Council did not give residents numerical values of revenue and expenses. When asked questions, officials deliberately left some questions unanswered and some responses given did not directly address the issues raised,” said Magodyo. Magodyo also noted that participation at the meeting was also manipulated as each resident was allowed only one question or contribution, “The District Officer (Mufakose) was not receptive to people’s queries and responded in an arrogant manner.”
Magodyo went on to say that council officials also showed unpreparedness to conduct budget consultations in other areas. In areas like Ward 29 in Glen Norah some officials were supposedly unaware of the presentations.
Magodyo’s allegations were reinforced by Tendai Shava (from Mbare’s Ward 12) who said he was not aware of the budget consultations that were held at Stodart Hall on 13 September. “I only got to hear of the meeting a day after it had taken place. Council should take time to notify all residents of the budget consultation meetings because they are now depriving many residents of their right to contribute to the city’s budget,” explained Shava.
Most of the budget consultations experienced low participation from residents just like in previous years. Itai Mabika (49) from Budiriro said that budget consultations were now irrelevant due to council’s failure to implement previous submissions by residents.
“I believe that most residents are neglecting the budget consultations because council will not have fulfilled residents’ previous submissions. For example, last year residents submitted that communities should retain 10% of the revenue generated on a monthly basis but you find that most communities have not received even a single disbursement from the retention fund,” said Mabika.
When contacted for a comment on residents’ concerns on the budget formulation process, Dorothy Mavolwane, the City’s Principal Customer Relations Officer, said that the municipality always strives to ensure citizenry participation in budget formulation to ensure residents’ ownership of the budget and council projects.
“We do appreciate and take note of the concerns raised by residents with regards to the flow of information on budget meetings. We did our best through adverts in the press and fliers that were distributed through our district offices and councillors,” said Mavolwane.