Bulawayo councillors demand retention funds

The three percent ward retention scheme by the city council here has created animosity between the councillors and the city management, with the former taking the latter to task over the unclear disbursement of the funds.

The feud between management and the councillors come at a time, the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) last month wrote a letter to town clerk Christopher Dube demanding clarity on the issue.

 

In 2016, the local authority came up with a policy to the effect that three percent of total revenue received from a ward is ploughed back to that ward as a way of encouraging residents to timeously pay their bills.
Last week, Ward 1 councillor Mlandu Ncube told a full council meeting that the Finance department had questions to answer on how the retention fund had been handled to date.
“The chairman of the Finance committee is not being totally honest with us. Our projects, which we submitted to relevant departments, have not yet been financed. Finance people should give us figures.
“They also take our money and divert it to other projects and end up delaying approving our budgets. We once asked for a list of projects for the retention fund and the projects, only projects for Ward 1 were revealed. So, do you say all these 28 other wards did not submit?” Ncube asked.
Ward 3 Councillor Tinashe Kambarami who is also the deputy mayor chipped in: “When you send your request to the finance department, they hardly respond. They take maybe three months.
“We are just shooting ourselves; let us use those resources timeously. If we have ward retention fund and the councillor comes to request, avail the funds on time.”
On the other hand, BPRA piled pressure on the local authority challenging them to give an explanation on the development pertaining to the retention fund.
“In line with its mandate to promote the participation of residents in budget formulation, implementation, tracking and monitoring processes, BPRA is hereby requesting for a breakdown of the three percent ward retention fund expenditure for the year 2016 and 2017 for the following Wards: 1; 13; 22 and 27,” BPRA acting coordinator Emmanuel Ndlovu wrote in his letter.
“BPRA notes with concern after having analysed the full council minutes of February 6, 2019 that there are wards that have not yet accessed and utilised the three percent retention funds meant to develop initiatives in the wards.
“BPRA would like to understand the reasons and challenges faced by those wards that did not spend anything under their allocation namely Ward 5, 7, 11, 12, 21, 23, 24, 27 and 29. 
“We are deeply concerned by the fact that the retention funds have lost their purchasing power as a result of the country’s runaway inflation.
“Every month Bulawayo City Council gains a dollar but it loses its buying power with it being kept in council coffers for no logical explanation,” Ndlovu added.
However, in his response, the town clerk said while “it is common cause that ward development funds are a creature of statute in that council made a resolution for the fund creation, the modalities of implementation remain a preserve for council officials.”
Dube said in light of the harsh economic atmosphere, all what council has been doing has been egg-shell balancing to ensure that most critical areas that make the residents tick are catered for while exploring avenues of creating new revenue streams.
“It is of significance to note that much as the promulgation of the policy/resolution kicked-in in 2016, the resolution giving birth to the operationalisation of the fund was only given the nod in July 2017 pretty much a year after its promulgation.
“The time lag between promulgation and operationalisation clearly left council officials at a quandary, tantamount to being between a rock and a hard place because such legal technicalities may amount to insubordination on the part of the officials,” Dube explained.
Projects earmarked for community development using the fund include hall repairs, servicing of street lights, construction of ramps at halls, refurbishing youth centres, equipping ECD classes, construction of a clinic and construction of a foot bridge.
The idea is designed in such a way that the ward where residents paid the most would get more money as part of the initiative to encourage residents to pay their bills.

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