Women’s Institute for Leadership Development (WILD) conducted a Pre-budget consultation meeting which was attended by at least 25 women at Esihlengeni Community Hall in Umzingwane’s Ward 2. The meeting sought to develop and strengthen the capacity of women with skills and knowledge on how to participate in local council planning, budgeting, expenditure tracking, and financial oversight. The meeting covered topics that include the budgeting process, budget analysis, expenditure tracking, and budget monitoring.
Thembelani Dube a budget expert and representative from Bulawayo Progressive Residents Associations (BUPRA) facilitated the meeting. Kickstarting his presentation he explained the essential components of the budget consultations which include involvement, willingness, identifying, prioritising, and ownership. Explaining on the aspects of involvement and willingness, he said that officials conducting budget consultations should be willing to involve all interested parties and allow them an opportunity to input their needs. He then went on to say that residents should identify their needs which should be incorporated into the budget. He made emphasis that after identifying their needs, they should be ranked in order of priority starting with the most important.
Dube highlighted that budget consultations should be all-inclusive and the views of all citizens should be taken into account. He said that women need to be involved in budget processes so as to promote gender-inclusive budget processes. Women however explained that in most cases their active participation in budget processes is affected by gender roles as traditionally they are expected to remain at home while the men attend the community meetings on behalf of their families.
The meeting was attended by women from five villages from ward 2 who identified issues from their respective villages that they need to be covered by the 2021 local authority budget. Women from Nhlozamandla village identified borehole drilling, road network improvement, construction of a shopping centre, electricity installation, and dam desilting as their budget priorities. Women from Esihlengeni village identified borehole drilling, road network, electricity installation, and dip-tank construction as their budget priorities. Women from Siphezini village identified clinic construction, road network, borehole drilling, and the construction of a secondary school as their budget priorities. Women from Ngwabi village identified borehole drilling, community hall construction, road network, and improvement of the transport network as their budget priorities. Women from Irrigation village identified dam desilting, road network, borehole drilling, and pre-school construction as their budget priorities. Collectively, women the following as their priorities: water, road network, electricity installation, and construction of schools and clinics.
Dube explained the nexus between Community Development and Devolution Funds highlighting that devolution funds are availed by the central government to constituencies and local authorities towards community development. Women were concerned as they said that they have not been informed on how the CDF and Devolution Funds for Umzingwane have been utilised in the 2020 budget cycle. Dube encouraged women to demand accountability and transparency from the local authority and their Members of Parliament in the utilisation of these funds.
In concluding his presentation, Dube highlighted that citizen participation in the budget processes does not end with the budget consultation meetings but citizens need to be involved in budget tracking and assessing how the local authority funds are being used in community development. He said that participatory governance means that the local leaders should give updates regularly to citizens on the utilisation of council funds as this fosters a culture of accountability and transparency in governance. As the meeting came to a close, women encouraged each other to take on the responsibility of making a collective effort in holding their local leaders to account on the use of the council funds as set out in the annual budget.
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