Ministers Moyo, Chombo cornered over council abuse of devolution funds

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By Anna Chibamu 

HARARE East lawmaker and former Finance minister, Tendai Biti, has confronted Local Government minister, July Moyo, on the continued disbursement of devolution funds in local councils without any legislation in place.

During a question and answer session in Parliament Wednesday, Biti said Moyo was abusing local authority funds without a law in place on how to govern and disburse local council money.

The lawmaker also took Moyo’s deputy to task, noting that she was not different.

“Local Government ministry keeps on referring to the use of devolution funds, but the fundamental issue is that there is no devolution law authorising the disbursement of those funds.

“So you now have minister July Moyo on his own, willy-nilly now distributing these funds at his own discretion, thereby opening up for corruption and abuse. Why is the Ministry distributing devolution funds in the absence of a legal framework?” Biti said.

Deputy Local Government minister, Marian Chombo, however, insisted that the Constitution allows for a percentage to fund local councils through the devolution funds.

“I think that question has been brought up in this august House so many times. If you look at section 301, it is a constitutional requirement that we provide 5% so that gives us the power to do such,” Chombo said amid jeering from the left bench.

Biti disagreed: “Section 301 says an Act of Parliament must provide for equitable allocation of grants between provincial and metropolitan councils and local authorities. Therefore, you cannot distribute the funds without an Act of Parliament, so why are they doing that without an Act of Parliament?”

But Chombo blamed Parliament, saying it had approved the disbursements of the devolution funds without a law.

“I think when we were approving the budget, it is the same House that approved the disbursement of the devolution funds,” said Chombo.

Norton MP, Temba Mliswa, then attacked the two ministers, accusing them of corruption.

Mliswa also said the deputy minister was as corrupt as her ex-husband, Ignatius Chombo.

“She comes, she says that here and she still steals. Ishavi ripi iroro? We really do not want the minister to think that we are so ignorant to the fact that you are preoccupied with looting devolution money,” said Mliswa.

“We are not preoccupied with looting. We are preoccupied in making sure the law works. This House passes the law and it is an insult for her to come to us all the time disregarding the law, talking about the very same Act which talks about an enabling Act which must be there to pass money. I do not know what needs to be done for you to understand that,” Mliswa warned Chombo.

He added, “You have got very cute short hair and I would expect fresh air to be permeating through your brain so that you do not make us stupid, because we cannot come here and you are blindly defending Moyo.

“Mr. Speaker, we are tired of this. The best thing is, you must tell her to sit down and we must be asking her when the Act is coming to Parliament. This must be requested.

“We ushered the Second Republic into power so that His Excellency can take the country forward, but you are busy throwing spanners in the works through looting. Are you not ashamed of yourselves? Your husband, Chombo used to steal, your current Minister is also stealing. Chombo was a better thief but you are stealing in broad daylight.”.