Midlands Bureau Chief
IT’S crunch time for local authorities that are meeting with local Government experts to defend their proposed 2023 budgets as already three local authorities have been referred back to the drawing board after failing to explain their budgets.
The Minister of Local Government and Public Works, July Moyo, has summoned the 92 urban and rural authorities to Gweru for the local authorities’ 2023 budget approval process.
The process which started yesterday is expected to end on Sunday.
Minister Moyo is leading a team of experts from his office including the permanent secretary Mr Churu who have been taking local authorities to task over their budgets.
The budget approval process is being attended by mayors, councillors and chief executive officers from 92 local authorities.
Chiredzi, Mhondoro- Ngezi Rural District Councils and Masvingo City Council were the first to defend their 2023 budgets before the Minister and were all asked to go back to the drawing board after failing to support the budget projections and provide the 2022 budget performances.
Minister Moyo said local authorities should also play a role in employment creation through viable projects that attract investment and create employment for locals in line with Vision 2030.
He said without proper tabulation on how job creation with be achieved it be difficult for the Ministry to approve a local authority 2023 budget.
“I welcome you all to the 2023 budget approval process, when Government is implementing people centred development policies that are accelerating the trajectory towards vision 2030. The same approach has to be seen to manifest across the whole of Government, local authorities included,” he said.
Minister Moyo said President Mnangagwa while addressing United Nations General Assembly in 2022 highlighted that Zimbabwe has 350 000 villages all of whom should have running potable water and other services that make them an upper middle class society in line with National Development Strategy (NDS 1).
“That should be the guiding principle for all local authorities’ budgets.
“Local authorities should also play a role in employment creation through having viable projects or programmes that attract investment and create employment in line with Vision 2030,” he said.
The budget approval process, Minister Moyo said, is also coming after a vigorous capacity building process concentrating on revenues generation, financial modelling and drafting of by-laws conducted and facilitated by the Ministry with the aim of addressing key issues that emanated from the prior budget approval process.
“The issues included lack of by-laws, absence of general valuation roll, non-compliance to Statutory Audits, lack of thorough comprehension of revenue sources as guided by Statutes, the Finance chairpersons speech that lacked inspiration and late submissions of budgets,” he said.
Minister Moyo said a few systems audits had been conducted and they revealed issues that need urgent attention some of which had been revealed during the prior year budget approval process, including lack of vision to take the local authority to world class status, poor spatial planning, inadequate digital systems and absence of policies and standard operating procedures
“In relation to the issues noted, my Ministry through the relevant department managed to engage the (Auditor General) AG’s office on the issue of outstanding by-laws and also facilitated and capacitated local authorities on crafting of draft by-laws,” he said.
Minister Moyo said the Ministry also provided assistance to local authorities that required property assessment for valuation.
“I am informed that for 2022 there are 17 new applications with the department of Estates and Valuations at the Ministry.
Furthermore, seven local authorities are currently being assessed and I am impressed that Buhera RDC and Bikita RDC are amongst the list. I expect that all other local authorities should follow suit,” he said.
In that regard, Minister Moyo said the Ministry will permit local authorities who chose to utilise the 10 percent Devolution funds operational grant for the purpose of producing general Valuation Roll and for up grading digital systems to do so.
He said it has been observed that there is a decline in the number of up to date audited accounts from 52 to 43.
“The production of draft final accounts, quarterly reports and monthly management accounts is a statutory requirement under the Public Finance Management Act, Urban Councils Act and Rural District Councils Act.
“Therefore, with immediate effect, the production and submission of final accounts for auditing shall be a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) in the performance contracts of The Mayor/ Council Chairperson and Town Clerk/ Town Secretary/ Chief Executive Officer,” he said.
Minister Moyo said he expected all local authorities to expedite the production of adequate draft by-laws and modernise those that are now outdated to facilitate the smooth running of council and enable revenue collection in 2023.
He said the legal department will ensure that the authorities are properly guided.
“Let me reiterate that local authorities must produce draft financial accounts, quarterly reports and monthly management consistently in line with statutory provisions. All local authorities should attempt to produce updated Valuation Rolls by the 3rd quarter and improve their digital systems to enhance revenue generation and general management of operations,” he said.
Minister Moyo said during the budget approval process each local authority will be tabling its 2023 budget for interrogation before it is approved.
“The Ministry will not approve any budget which doesn’t meet the requirements. The budget should be realistic and should not overburden the rate payers. Issues of gender equality and employment creation should also be addressed before the budget is approved,” he said.
The process continues today with more local authorities expected to justify their proposed budgets.