By Clayton Shereni, Masvingo Correspondent
CITY of Masvingo officials were Monday grilled by parliamentarians and residents over the continuous lack of transparency and accountability concerning the use of devolution funds since 2019.
The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Local Government was at Town Hall where it was listening to residents’ concerns regarding the handling of devolution funds by the local authority.
Masvingo United Residents and Ratepayers Alliance (MURRA) had petitioned parliament in May last year seeking reprieve on the dictatorial use of devolution funds and non-delivery of adequate services.
Members of the committee and residents took turns to fire questions at Town Clerk Edward Mukaratirwa who had earlier on presented his report on how they were handling the funds.
In his report, Mukaratirwa accepted that they had not done separate consultations on how to use the devolution allocations but were jointly doing that when they do annual budget consultations.
“It was not very clear for us how we should deal with these funds but when we did our budget consultations for the financial year that is when we were jointly consulting residents on the use of devolution allocation,” Mukaratirwa said.
MP Miriam Chikukwa blasted council for not being transparent and for failure to conduct proper consultations with residents in all the 10 wards.
“Devolution funds are not council funds, that money is not yours. You should do different consultations in every ward because communities have priorities. Bottom line is that you haven’t been going to the people to hear their priorities when it comes to what they want the money to be used for,” Chikukwa said.
Budiriro MP Costa Machingauta added: “Council should not take directives from the Minister but should consult the people that is the way these funds should be used.”
In his remarks, Mayor Collen Maboke appreciated that the local authority was at fault and promised to continuously engage residents in future.
“Every home has its own problems but we are glad that now we have engaged with residents and we will work tirelessly to engage them as we plan on how to use devolution funds and council projects because their input is of paramount importance,” Maboke said.
Under the devolution program, council received ZW$400 000 in 2019, ZW$9 million in 2020 and ZW$86.5 million.
Unclear use of these funds has seen residents approach parliament to help them demand answers from city fathers.
Council has chosen to prioritise the Mucheke Trunk Sewer project which has brewed much controversy considering it has gone for a decade but has not been completed.
Residents have, however, complained that the project has been used as a scapegoat when it comes to devolution funds as they claim huge chunk of the city’s allocation is channeled to the project.