Devolution has been allocated $19,5 billion for next year as the Second Republic moves with pace to implement the strategy aimed at developing the country using local knowledge of needs and getting local communities to take responsibility for their development.
Devolution is enshrined in the 2013 Constitution, but its implementation began in earnest with the coming in of the Second Republic under President Mnangagwa when growing sums were budgeted to top up the funds local authorities raise themselves to fund essential infrastructure in their areas.
According to the National Public Infrastructure Investment Programme for 2021 document crafted by the Finance and Economic Development Ministry, Government provides the right framework for building back better all the critical public infrastructure services required for the country’s socio-economic development.
Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube said consistent with Constitutional provisions, the 2021 Budget has an allocation of $19,5 billion to be distributed to provincial or metropolitan councils and local authorities in line with the agreed formulas.
“Government launched the policy on devolution and decentralisation, giving impetus to the promotion of inclusive and balanced socio-economic development in the country, as enshrined in the Constitution and Vision 2030,” he said.
The funds will be shared among the 10 provinces based on factors such as poverty levels, quality of infrastructure and the population.
Each province and local council should become a dynamic economic hub, able to attract investments in their own right and taking advantage of their rich natural endowments.
“The investments by provincial or metropolitan councils and local authorities should target key local enablers such as roads, dams and other basic infrastructure projects that will crowd in private sector investments for local economies.
“Noting that devolution of power comes with responsibilities, Government will undertake capacity building measures that ensure provincial and metropolitan councils and local authorities uphold democratic, corporate governance as well as the fiscal accountability standards expected of all public entities using public funds.”
This year alone, life-changing developmental projects were embarked upon under the devolution drive in areas once perceived to marginalised.
The projects include roads rehabilitation, dam and clinics construction, and drilling and rehabilitation of boreholes.
Binga Rural District Council channelled $26 million towards rehabilitating roads at Lusulu Business Centre, water and sewer reticulation at Binga Centre and the construction of clinics and classroom blocks in several parts of the district. Some of the funds were used to roof classroom blocks at 13 schools after their roofs had been blown away by strong winds.
Prof Ncube said besides transferring political power from central to sub-national tiers of Government, the devolution policy also envisions transfer of fiscal powers, which enables councils to spearhead economic and social development in their jurisdictions.
Councils will be using local revenues topped up by mandatory transfers of national fiscal resources to devolved entities. The devolution programme is meant to drive individual provinces to develop critical infrastructure that can create a conducive environment for economic empowerment of local communities and increase the contribution to national development.
Provinces are deciding the projects to be implemented in their respective areas guided by the need to maximise on exploitation of local resources.
However, Government recently expressed concern that some local authorities were sitting on the 2020 devolution funds which were supposed to fund development projects meant to improve peoples’ lives.
Nkayi Rural District Council in Matabeleland North is one such council which was singled out for failing to deliver as expected despite receiving the funds.