The Ministry of Local Government and Public Works is holding the 2023 Local Authorities Annual Budget Approval Process aimed at enhancing effective allocation of resources and improved service delivery within councils.
The process involved all 92 local authorities presenting their draft budgets to Ministry officials before the budgets are approved for the year.
This year, the exercise was held from 3 January to 9 January in Gweru.
Minister of Local Government and Public Works Hon July Moyo led the deliberations where each council had to defend its budget before it was recommended for approval.
Those whose budgets were deemed lacking were ordered to amend or redo before the approval process.
Addressing the council officials , Hon Moyo said budgets must be guided by the Nation’s vision of provision of services that would make the country an Upper Middle class society by 2030 in line with the National Development Strategy 1.
He said the budget approval process came after a vigorous capacity building process concentrating on revenues generation, financial modelling and drafting of by-laws conducted and facilitated by the Ministry with the aim of addressing key issues that emanated from the prior budget approval process.
“The issues included lack of by-laws, absence of General Valuation Roll; Non-compliance to Statutory Audits; Lack of thorough comprehension of Revenue Sources as guided by Statutes; the Finance Chairpersons speech’s that lacked inspiration and Late submissions of budgets,” he said.
Hon Moyo said a few systems audits had been conducted and they revealed issues that need urgent attention some of which had been revealed during the prior year budget approval process.
These included lack of vision to take the local authority to world class status, poor spatial planning, in adequate digital systems and absence of policies and standard operating procedures.
The Ministry, he added, has now engaged the Attorney General’s department on the issue of outstanding by-laws and also facilitated and capacitated local authorities on crafting of draft by-laws.
“The Ministry also provided assistance to Local Authorities that required property assessment for Valuation. I am informed that for 2022 there are 17 new applications with the Department of Estates and Valuations at the Ministry. Furthermore, seven Local Authorities are currently being assessed and I am impressed that Buhera RDC and Bikita RDC are among the list. I expect that all other Local Authorities should follow suit.
“In that regard I will permit Local Authorities who chose to utilise the 10 percent Devolution funds operational grant for the purpose of producing General Valuation Roll and for up grading digital systems to do so.”
He, however, expressed concern over the low number of local authorities with updated audited financial accounts.
As of December 2022, only 43 local authorities were up to date with their audited accounts, a drop from 53 compared to last year.
“The production of draft final accounts, quarterly reports and monthly management accounts is a statutory requirement under the Public Finance Management Act, Urban Councils Act and Rural District Councils Act. Therefore, with immediate effect, the production and submission of final accounts for auditing shall be a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) in the performance contracts of The Mayor/ Council Chairperson and Town Clerk/ Town Secretary/ Chief Executive Officer,” he said.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry Mr Zvinechimwe Churu said the style of budget approval process processes was initiated in January 2022 signalling a shift from the old to the new ways of doing business in the New Dispensation particularly in the Local Government sphere.
“The Ministry appreciates that the process is painful and drains a lot of resources but we however, feel it is worth the effort. Furthermore, we feel that the approval process is the perfect platform to capacitate both Councillors and Officials of Council,” he said.
Mr Churu added that there has been a remarkable uptake in the utilisation of the digital platforms in the budgeting process.
“In 2022, the number of Local Authorities using LADS increased from 26 to 54. However, the quality of the reports being produced need improvement. Local Authorities should take this process seriously, learn from it and improve to ensure Local Government fraternity contributes to the achievement of NDS-1.”