THE ministry of Local Government and Public Works has not been releasing operational grants to the provincial councils, despite being allocated funds under the National Budget, a report has shown. Operational grants are important as they support efficient service delivery by local authorities.
Findings by acting Auditor-General Rheah Kujinga in her Value for Money Audit Report for the year ended 31 December 2022, show that while the Local Government minister was allocated ZW$35 150 000 in funding, nothing was released to provincial councils, with only ZW$1 953 382 being disbursed in board fees that cater for council meetings.
In 2020, the ministry did not release operational grants, despite having a ZW$293 200 000 budget allocation, while ZW$1 739 782 was released in board fees.
The trend continued into 2021, with the ministry failing to disburse funds to provincial authorities, despite getting a hefty ZW$977 million, while releasing ZW$1 739 782 in board fees.
The report has also revealed that, while board fees were released, there were no minutes to support if the funds had been used for the intended purpose.
“According to interviews held with management from the MLGPW, it was revealed that the operational grants were not being released as there were no provincial councils which were supposed to utilise the funds. Management highlighted that PCs will only be in existence once the Provincial Councils and Administration Amendment Bill had been signed into law,” reads the report.
“Audit noted that although the councilors had been paid board fees, there were no minutes to provide evidence that they had been any devolution-related activities. Interviews with officials revealed the councillors had not yet been sworn in, as the legal instrument which is the Provincial Councils and Administration Amendment Act Chapter 29:11 had not yet been signed into law.” In response, the Local Government ministry said it does not have direct support for monitoring devolution, as provincial councils are not yet operational.
“It should be noted that the constitution does not allow the utilisation of Inter-Governmental Fiscal Transfers by central government. Provincial Councils were not yet operational hence the non-release operational grants.
“Provincial Councils are not yet operational but the Provincial Council lots are in place, and they are a creation of the Constitution hence the payment of their allowances are observed. The principles of the Provincial Councils and Administration Act were approved and the Ministry has since sent drafting instructions to the Attorney-General in 2022 after the Constitutional Amendment.”
The revelations come at a time when local authorities’ operations have been in limbo, compromising service delivery.
While a ray of hope had shone after introduction of the Devolution Bill in Parliament, no progress has been made, with it being aborted after lapse of the 9th Parliament before the August 2023 general elections.
According to section 147 of the constitution, upon the dissolution of Parliament all proceedings pending at the time are terminated, and every Bill, motion, and other business lapses.