Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister, July Moyo, has said the implementation of devolution would be accelerated this year after a slow start seen in previous years.
Concerns have been raised at the slow pace of devolution, with some questioning whether the government is keen on devolving power to provinces.
Speaking on national television on The Devolution Agenda programme that was aired Sunday, Moyo said due to the preparations undertaken by the government, devolution would be accelerated from this year.
“Last year was a learning curve, as the devolution money came late – after May and might not have done a lot. But because of the preparations that we have done and the seminars we have held, I think we will see an accelerated implementation this year.”Minister of Local Government and Public Works, July Moyo.
The minister highlighted there was renewed vigour by district and provincial authorities including Ministers of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution, formerly Ministers of State, who could intervene in developmental initiatives.
“If we didn’t have a devolution agenda, we wouldn’t have achieved what we did under Cyclone Idai, for example. The amount of work done by authorities at district level, provincial up to the minister of state is tremendous.
“There is a lot of enthusiasm and local initiatives in overcoming a number of challenges, where people are not waiting for us in Harare to come and help them. There is a momentum that we must keep going and people must take matters in their own hands but within the confines of a unitary state.”July Moyo.
He defined that under a unitary state, actions made by provinces should be in sync with national decisions.
“The priorities of the nation overrides those of the province and local authority,” the minister stated.
Moyo said to check implementation, people could “go on the ground and start pointing to say this was built by money from devolution.”
He explained the devolution funds were deposited into the accounts and focus was on infrastructure.
“We want to target educational, health, water and sewer, roads and electricity infrastructure, as these are services people at a local level need every day in order to survive. For the first phase and since we started last year, all the money must be spent on those. We also encouraged local authorities to buy equipment from the manufacturers while eliminating middlemen.”July Moyo.
The Ministry of Finance ministry is managing the transfer of the devolution funds to the local government ministry then local authorities, the minister said.
“Government finances are on an accrual basis, so local authorities are not receiving all the ZWL$2.9 billion that’s on the national budget. They are not receiving all funds at once but once it comes we try and make sure, every local authority is given something to continue working,” Moyo said.
He added the criteria to disburse funds was based on a “waiting criteria because we want to attack marginalisation. You find there are areas more marginalised and will receive more money than those which are not marginalised.”
“We have used a system agreed by us (the local government ministry) and the ministry of finance that marginalisation can be spatial, meaning it is per area or by sector. For instance, under the education sector, the ministry has its own targets to say in many kilometres there must be a school, which has to be met.”
The minister emphasized devolution funds would be audited to prevent anomalies.
“All funds appropriated by the government are audited by the controller and auditor general as the finance ministry is interested to make sure those funds are used correctly. Monitoring becomes all of our responsibility, from the District Development Administrator, the Provincial Development Coordinator and Ministers of State. People themselves must report malpractices, as the funds are meant for their benefit,” he said.
As to how prepared the central government was in relinquishing power to provinces, Moyo claimed, “power is never given very freely sometimes it has to be pushed out of your hands, which is why it was important to note the president (Emmerson Mnangagwa) chairs the devolution committee (in government).”
“This will go on and the president is determined to continue interacting at that level.”