Residents of Zimbabwe's Chikomba West constituency in Mashonaland East province are up in arms over the alleged abuse of constituency development funds provided to the parliamentarian who represents the district, charging that local lawmaker Michael Bimha has not put the cash to use to raise living standards in the community.
Chikomba West villagers including Tendai Muchemwa, a staunch ZANU-PF supporter in Madamombe village, charge that the ZANU-PF member of Parliament hasn’t initiated a single development program since the beginning of the year.
Muchemwa’s remarks were echoed by Ward 15 Councilor Takesure Ndaveni, who says he was never consulted as local councilor on how the funds should be used.
“We only heard about this money in the newspapers but we have never heard any projects that were done using this money. I am the ward 15 Councilor and since the MP stays here, I was expecting that he would consult me on what projects the people wanted the money to be used for,” Muchemwa said.
Ward 11 Councilor Arnold Reza said he has also been left in the dark. He said he asked Bimha about the funds during a recent council meeting in Chivhu, and Bimha responded that no one but him had a say in how the financial resources should be used.
Reza, like other Chikomba West villagers, is calling on authorities to investigate Bimha.
VOA Studio 7 was unable to obtain a comment from the legislator – who is also the Deputy Minister of Industry and Commerce.
The misuse of Constituency Development Funds is an issue in many constituencies.
All 210 House members received $50,000 each last year to spend to improve the lives of their constituents. But Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Eric Matinenga recently said only 66 were able to account for the funds, sparking outrage among civil society activists over the apparent misuse of much of the total of US$10.5 million dollars.
Civic activists are calling on the government to arrest legislators who abuse such funds.
Matinenga told reporter VOA Studio 7 reporter Violet Gonda that some 106 lawmakers have now made returns regarding the use of the funds.
But he said those who don’t act responsibly and account for the funds will suffer the legal consequences, though better accounting mechanisms are also needed.
“What we have seen so far is that some people are not accounting because they have spent the money," Matinenga said, "but people are not accounting simply because they are not bookkeepers and some of what they are being asked to do is just beyond them.”
He said legislators who have made returns come from provinces where there have been capacity-building exercises, such as Matebeleland, Masvingo and Manicaland.
Elsewhere, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai told reporters on Friday that Bulawayo’s accelerating loss of industries is due in part to chronic shortages of water in the city and the Matabeleland region, but added that inadequate financing is a bigger problem as well as cash flow issues stemming from the adoption of a hard currency monetary regimen.