HARARE – The Zimbabwe Economic Policy Analysis and Research Unit (ZEPARU) says competition for power between the tiers as well as between the central government officials residing in the devolved areas may stifle the devolution agenda if not managed well.
The Zimbabwe Constitution Amendment (No. 20) Act 2013 provides the framework for devolution of governmental powers and responsibilities in Section 264 with tiers of government outlined in Section 5 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
Sub-section 1 provides for devolution of governmental powers and responsibilities to provincial and metropolitan councils and local authorities. Section 301(3) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe further provides that a budget of at least 5% of the national revenues raised in any financial year should be allocated to the provinces and local authorities as their share in that fiscal year.
The funds have already been allocated with a budget of ZWL$703 million provided for in the 2019 fiscal year to kick start the devolution process. The central government specified that those funds should be used for capital development.
“The government has adopted a gradualist approach to the implementation of devolution and not a big bang approach as has happened in other jurisdictions in order to learn and pick lessons as the process is being rolled out,” stated ZEPARU in its latest report.
The institutional framework for devolution mainly involves the three tiers of government namely the central government, the Provincial and Metropolitan Councils and the local authorities, as provided for in Section 5 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
“Thus, clarity in the roles and responsibilities of the three tiers of government is critical for effective implementation of devolution in a coordinated manner.”
Another challenge, ZEPARU said, is that local authorities have weak governance structures which includes the absence of professional auditors within the councilors who sit in the local authorities audit committees to review the local authorities’ books.
“The majority of Councils maintain multiple bank accounts and are generally not up-to-date with their bank reconciliations. This is despite the importance of maintaining up-to-date financial records which potential investors consider when looking for investment opportunities within their jurisdictions,” it said.
Special audits that have been carried out for the local authorities reveal that fewer resources are channeled towards service delivery as most of their resources including donor funds are allocated towards salaries. There is limited adherence to the prescribed 30:70 ratio as the employment to service delivery ratio in relation to total revenue.
Zimbabwe is implementing economic devolution where provinces and districts will act as economic hubs competing with each other to attract investment and transform themselves into economic zones with their own gross domestic product (GDP) to ensure sustainable and equitable development of the country.
These devolved tiers have some fiscal responsibilities which include deciding their own budgets and setting their own development priorities. Growth points will develop into smaller towns to decongest big cities. Regional disparities in development should be catered for to address issues of marginalization-HARARE