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Harare City Council Budget Consultations Flop

City of Harare
An attempt Wednesday by the Harare City Council to convene budget consultation meetings throughout the city failed to materialize after residents and stakeholders did not turn up, saying the location of the meetings were not publicized.

All the meetings that were scheduled for the Town House, Greendale, Arcadia and other areas saw virtually no attendance. Councilors and residents’ groups blamed the local authority for poor planning and failing to publicize the venues and time of meetings.

At Greendale Sports Club, for example, only three residents turned up, prompting Councilor Stewart Mtizwa to say the meeting would be rescheduled.

Simbarashe Moyo, chairman of the Combined Harare Residents Association, said the poor turnout today indicates a serious breakdown of communication between council officials and residents.

Harare Residents Trust Director Precious Shumba went further, accusing the council of not publicizing the meetings deliberately in an attemptr to sideline residents from the budgeting process. As evidence, he pointed to the 10 a.m. meeting time, saying few people would be available to meet at such an early hour as most would be at work.

Shumba said senior council management fears exposing huge salaries in the budget to residents, who want more resources for service delivery. He said residents want the 2014 budget to be aligned to the Urban Councils Act, which stipulates that at least 70 percent of financial resources should be committed to service delivery, with the remainder to pay for workers’ salaries.

Shumba said service delivery is currently severely compromised, as most of the budget goes to pay salaries for what he called a “bloated workforce.”

Harare Town Clerk Tendai Mahachi and council spokesman Leslie Gwindi could not be reached for comment but an official at Town House, who declined to be named, told Studio 7 that most, if not all, the meetings in the city’s 46 wards will be rescheduled to occur after working hours or on weekends.

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Former Bulawayo mayor Patrick Thaba Moyo, who is also the second vice-president of the Urban Councils Association of Zimbabwe tells V-O-A reporter Sithandekile Mhlanga local authorities should priorities residents’ needs during preparations for their budgets.

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Local authorities throughout the country are in the process of drafting budget proposals. The proposals are then sent to the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works, and Urban Development for approval before the budgets can be implemented.