Residents roast Karoi council over flawed budget
KAROI Town Council has come under fire from residents over its flawed 2023 budget that was rejected by the ministry of Local Government last week in Gweru.
The ministry approved 92 budgets from local councils throughout the country but rejected a few that include Karoi Town Council, Murehwa Rural District Council, Binga Rural District Council and Lupane Local Board.
Ministry officials were tasked with assisting Karoi officials to come up with a budget.
The council had made an “unchanged” ZW$4 billion budget underpinned by funding from 16 by-laws that are yet to be approved.
Shepherd Mahwande, a local resident who was vocal during consultative meetings, said council was paying the price for prioritising “rubber-stamping” meetings.
‘‘On several occasions, we raised fundamental council budgeting flaws, but we were labelled as enemies. Council picked compliant and submissive individuals into the so-called budget committee to rubber-stamp a flawed budget and this is the sad reality we are facing as a town. We are in such a mess because some officials think they have a monopoly of ideas over public funds,’’ said Mahwande.
“A sound budget entails the income, expenditure, receipts, payments, projections, assets, liabilities and balance of account. We requested these, but nothing was ever provided. It is unfortunate that our council is operating without standard operating systems. The council has failed us big time as they increased charges despite a promise that the budget was to remain static in 2023.”
In its hard-hitting report, the ministry rejected the budget, saying it was hurriedly done.
The ministry said council should go back to the drawing board with technical assistance from the ministry, before engaging stakeholders.
Another resident, Edison Karichi, said if it is true that a team was sent to help in crafting and implementing a proper budget, council must do better.
‘‘Council must embrace all stakeholders in all future budget meetings to avoid such embarrassing performance,’’ said Karichi.
Zimbabwe National Organisation of Residents and Associations Trust (ZNOART) provincial chairperson Liberty Chitiya called for inclusive engagement as residents and stakeholders’ contributions are crucial and should always be given priority.
‘‘The Karoi town budget rejection by the ministry is a sigh of relief to residents who have been saved from the jaws of a centralised local budget.
ZNOART and all its membership highlighted to the council the need for a participatory budget, but the council ignored the pleas.
‘‘Budget consultations were slated to kick off at 5pm and there was no time for valuable inputs from residents focused on winding up the day,’’ said Chitiya.
He said despite receiving written submissions from stakeholders, the council did not take cooperate.
‘‘ZNOART wrote a letter of concern against the council’s non-participatory approach and budget consultations and all they did was to be arrogant as if the budget process belongs to council management not to residents or ratepayers. It is embarrassing that the Karoi Town Council budget was so bad that it could not be stitched and save face amongst the 31 urban local councils. Local government has directed the town council to go back to the drawing board with residents’ inputs being factored in so that proposed budgets put the ownership of a budget rightfully back to the residents in line with the tenets of devolution,’’ Chitiya added.
Karoi town chairperson Abel Matsika, who is also Urban Council Association of Zimbabwe president, conceded that they performed badly.
‘‘It is true that our budget was rejected and the crafting part has since been corrected. There are two processes of committee meeting and subsequent full council that the minister said were hurriedly done and therefore left out important issues and we will invite our valued stakeholders to the full council meeting,’’ said Matsika.
He however said some residents were too harsh over council shortcomings.
‘‘As council we are very much amenable to criticism and ready to take on board proposals and suggestions that make Karoi a better place we all wish it to be. There are lots of concerns in need of redress and clarification, but let me express my displeasure over some of the derogatory and uncouth language being used in expressing our misgivings. We will cooperate with every stakeholder for progress’ sake,’’ said Matsika.
For the past two years the farming town has been under the spotlight following the arrest of key officials by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) over suspected graft and abuse of offices charges.
The town is operating with skeletal staff. Most senior managers are facing corruption-related charges in court.
Town secretary Wellington Mutikani, finance director Tongai Namusala, housing director Sibongile Mujuruki, administrator Hastings Makunda and acting engineer Admire Jimu are under suspension.