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Thumbs up to the Parliament Portfolio Committee on Budget, Finance
in Zimbabwe Coalition
October 20, 2010
world over, are seeking ways to increase citizen participation in
national processes and are moving away from imposing policies and
national budgets on citizens to creating platforms which enable
citizen engagement and participation. The government of Zimbabwe,
through the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Budget, Finance
and Investment, has set up a series of consultative meetings nationwide
to solicit input from Zimbabweans for the 2011 national budget.
To allow for greater accountability, the government
of Zimbabwe enacted the Public Finance Management Act (2010) which
strengthens the role of parliament in budget implementation. Section
33 requires every Ministry's accounting officer to "submit
quarterly financial statements and reports for submission by the
Minister to the appropriate parliamentary portfolio committee within
60 days of the end of the respective quarter". These financial
statements are meant to be published in the government gazette.
Gazetting of the monthly statements is a transparent way to allow
public scrutiny of the use of public resources.
Although government came up with such a noble initiative,
the process is marred by poor turnout The Herald of Tuesday October
19 2010 reported a disappointing attendance of 5 people at a pre-budget
hearing in Gweru. The same case was reported in Bindura where a
low turnout stunned the Finance Minister, Honorable Tendai Biti
who attended. Other centers that witnessed low turnout include Mutare
and Bulawayo. A Harare meeting has been scheduled for 21 October
2010 and analysts are skeptical of the success of this hearing.
Poor planning, absence of extensive publicity and
lack of confidence in public processes on the part of the committee
can be blamed for the low turnout. Former Midlands Provincial Governor,
Cephas Msipa attributed the low turnout in Gweru to lack of confidence
by the public in government processes. Despite the many impediments,
contributions have been put forward by the various stakeholders.
Issues raised include requests for the budget to set aside resources
for the resuscitation of industry which was affected by poor investment.
Operational challenges have forced huge employers including ZIMGLASS
and ZIMALLOYS to shut down indefinitely resulting in hundreds if
not thousands of breadwinners losing their jobs.
The committee should have involved local councils
extensively in both the planning and execution of the meetings.
The principle behind participatory budgeting, according to the Municipal
Development Partnership for Eastern and Southern Africa, originates
from local governments who in turn should report to the central
government. It is generally perceived that councils are more community
oriented and can reach the people in the best way possible which
would be a solution to the poor attendances currently being experienced.
For the successful implementation of the participatory
budgeting process, the Parliament Portfolio Committee on Budget,
Finance and Investment should ensure non-politicization of the process
and extensive publicity to raise public awareness and restore public
confidence in government activities.
The participatory budgeting process originated in
Porto Allegre, Brazil in 1989 and involves communities in determining
spending priorities and budgets in the country. Participatory budgeting
allows the public to give their consent with regards to public spending
and is based on the notion that what may be important to government
may not be important to the general populace. It thus allows citizens
a greater voice in how public finances should be used and what issues
should be prioritized at the same time supporting effective transparency
and accountability in government particularly where corruption is
prevalent as in the case of Zimbabwe.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition commends the efforts
made and hopes that the government will employ participatory and
consultative methods in all policy matters. With such initiatives
taking place, Zimbabwe might just be on the road to recovery.
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in Zimbabwe fact
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