GOVERNMENT has finally taken steps to operationalise devolution following the allocation of US$310 million towards the set up provincial councils next year as announced by Finance Minister, Professor Mthuli Ncube.
This budgetary support is a first for devolution, ever since the provision was enshrined in the 2013 constitution.
Government had always reaffirmed its commitment to devolution of power, but was silent on how it was going to implement it.
Announcing the 2019 National Budget Thursday, Prof Ncube, said support towards devolution was necessary as the development of provincial economies would drive growth of the national economy.
“The 2019 National Budget seeks to operationalise support to Provinces on the basis of Section 264 of the Constitution pertaining to provision of five percent of Government revenues to Provincial Councils. An estimated US$310 million in fiscal transfers is earmarked for support to Provincial Councils for 2019,” the minister said.
As spelt out in the National Transitional Stabilisation Programme, Prof Ncube noted that decentralisation is a key strategy for fair and just governance.
“All provinces should be able to plan and implement their economic growth and development using their factor endowments, with Central Government contributing through the five percent allocation annually,” he said.
To distribute the $310 million among the provinces, the finance ministry came up with an interim formula, which it claimed was simplistic and objective.
“To operationalise devolution, Government has already approved the Principles of the Provincial Councils and Administration Amendment Bill, which spells out the mechanisms of decentralisation and devolution. Actual allocations for 2019 will require Cabinet approval at the beginning of the financial year, making sure that the allocations target addressing pockets of marginalisation in Provinces and Districts,” said the finance minister.
“Government is cognisant of the urgent need to develop urban infrastructure, especially water & sanitation and roads. Therefore, Government will facilitate stronger partnership among relevant departments, respective local authorities and development partners in addressing infrastructure deficiency in urban areas.”
Prof Mthuli said treasury was also embarking on a programme to enhance financial and accounting capacity of local authorities and the provincial councils for transparency and accountability in the management of the public resources.
“The Devolution strategy also embraces initiatives to facilitate establishment of companies in various districts, in line with the thrust to enhance production in respective provinces, with the long established Growth Points being epicentres of this developmental thrust,” the minister said in his budget statement.
But, in response to these measures, opposition political party, ZAPU, one of the fierece advocates of devolution of power, noted that it was unfortunate the government was not only late at implementing it but had distorted it.
ZAPU National Spokesperson, Iphithule Maphosa, said the allocation lacks the simplicity and objectivity that devolution seeks to introduce to the governance function in Zimbabwe.
“Population profiling is not a function of devolution. Neither is its intention and as such, it must never be a determinant in Devolution implementation,” he claimed.
A devolution that ZAPU wants starts with devolving power democratically, that is with provinces choosing their political leadership which would then chart the way for socio-economic subsquent programmes, Maphosa indicated.
He said such principles had not been clear so far and it was not yet clear as to what that budgeted money is for.
“But we certainly are clear it is from a central budget and has not come from a democratically set up structure at provincial level, which is what we are calling for. We are not calling for a piece of bone to fight for like ten hungry dogs. We are calling for the power to make that decision the Finance Minister wants to clandestinely perform outside his jurisdiction.
“How much each province gets in terms of revenue must be determined by the amount of resources the province has. How that revenue is distributed must be determined by the elected provincial councils in the respective provinces,” Maphosa argued.
The ZAPU spokesman said if the Finance Minister was allocating to institutions of Devolution, he should then distribute the purse equally among the ten provinces without using “confusing tactics from determinants”, which the party contests.