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Chombo grilled over devolution funds





THE Local Government Ministry was last week grilled in Parliament over funds allocated towards devolution, which legislators said were yet to be released from the fiscus.

Local Government deputy minister Marian Chombo was asked by MPs in the National Assembly to explain how her ministry had disbursed devolution funds to different provinces.

Section 301(3) of the Constitution provides that an allocation of at least 5% of the national revenue raised in any financial year should be made to provinces and local authorities as their share in that fiscal year.

In 2019, $703 million was provided to kickstart the devolution process.

Umzingwane MP, Levi Mayihlome (Zanu-PF) said Chombo should explain why the ministry failed to disburse devolution funds in 2020, adding that she should further explain what government would do with the 2020 funds that were not released to local authorities.

"The devolution measures were being put in place to make sure that devolution funds were released. Devolution funds are a constitutional right and they have to be released as and when they are needed, but it is the responsibility of the Finance ministry to make sure that they are released on time," Chombo said.

"There is also a law that does not allow a rollover of devolution funds that have not been disbursed by the end of the year. So whenever the financial year is over, the funds that have not been released are returned to the Finance ministry," she said.

Harare North MP, Allan Norman Markham (MDC Alliance) then asked Chombo to explain how projects under the devolution were identified, as well as to state which elected officials were consulted to identify the projects to be spearheaded by provinces.

"The identification of projects is done from the community level and these funds are not for consumption, but they are for capital expenditure like road maintenance, clinics and boreholes to uplift lives in the community.

"The projects come from the community. So when we are drawing up budgets, the local authorities go around the communities or wards with councillors and they consult the community to come up with relevant projects that will uplift their lives. So the projects are engineered from the local community on the ground through their wards upwards," Chombo said.

Harare East MP, Tendai Biti (MDC Alliance) asked the deputy minister to explain why it had taken more than eight years for government to come up with the relevant devolution laws.

Chombo said currently, government was in the process of coming up with a devolution law which would operationalise how devolution funds should be channelled to different provinces and local authorities.

"I think in one of the Bills that are coming up, there is one for devolution, and definitely we are attending to that one," she said.

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Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka

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