Women’s Institute for Leadership Development (WILD) conducted a Civil Society Consensus Building meeting on the Bulawayo City Council Budget Process with emphasis being given to the recently held 2020 Supplementary Budget and the 2021 Proposed Budget.
Present for the engagement included organisations such as Southern Western Region Gender Network (SWRGN), Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BUPRA), Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association (BVTA), Emthonjeni Women’s Forum (EWF), Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ), Habbakuk Trust, National Youth Development Trust (NYDT), Amakhosikazi Media, Youth Invest, Community Podium, and Local Authorities Capacity Enhancement Project (LACEP-Zimbabwe).
The meeting enabled Civil Society Organisations to proffer solutions on how to improve the budget process and promote citizen’s effective participation.
Jacqueline Ndlovu, an informal trader cited how residents’ opinions are disregarded during the budget making cycle. Ndlovu said council is unresponsive to the needs and priorities of residents and this affects fundamental social services such as access to water, and healthcare services.
In the Budget Cycle, residents’ opinions are only considered during the Budget Consultations, which residents feel lacks transparency as their role qualifies in one element of the cycle.
Ntokozo Tshuma, a representative from Bulawayo Progressive Residents Associations (BUPRA) presented on the CSO perspective on the current budgeting process and desirable alternatives where he identified some of the loopholes that could have been noted during the budget consultations. In his presentation, virtual consultations were futile as the process was not inclusive of the voices and opinions of all citizens.
He said that it would have been ideal for more time to be availed to residents to read and comprehend the contents in the budget documents. Tshuma cited that online consultations became an inhibiting factor for people to participate due to exorbitant data bundles from telecommunications service providers. Tshuma implored the Council to improve access to information and says this should not only be done during Budget Consultation meetings but rather throughout the year.
Presenting on the economic trends and projections for the future, Thamsanqa Siwela a representative from PNA Chartered Accountants cited how public debt leads towards interest rates which are a sign that a country is not functioning at its optimum rate.
Siwela listed some of the solutions that would aid in easing the economic problems faced in the country. These included the following: Development of a model that will enable extraction of minerals, encouraging price control on foreign currency products, and the full implementation of the monetary and fiscal policy.
In light of the meeting that was held, a position paper will be submitted to the Bulawayo City Council with recommendations that will aid in the development of an improved strategy by the local authority in rolling out budget making processes.
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