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BCC to hold WhatsApp budget consultations

by Staff Reporter
26 Sep 2021 at 10:13hrs | Views
BULAWAYO City Council will for the second year running hold WhatsApp-based budget consultation meetings and also present the 2022 budget projections via the social networking platform.

Last year, the local authority introduced the concept so as to allow residents to contribute to the crafting of the budget due to the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. According to the Covid-19 lockdown measures, gatherings are being limited to 100 people.

The local authority is required by law to hold consultation meetings when coming up with a budget, with residents having the power to even reject the budget proposal if they feel council had not adequately consulted them.

"The City of Bulawayo will be conducting the 2022 Budget Consultation Meetings from Tuesday, 28 September 2021 to Thursday, 30 September 2021. The aim of the consultation meetings is to review the 2021 Budget performance and present the 2022 proposed Budget. Residents are advised that due to the Covid-19 restrictions, ward meetings will be on WhatsApp Groups from Wednesday, 29 September 2021 to Thursday, 30 September 2021 between 13:00hrs to 15:00hrs. Virtual meeting links will be shared accordingly with targeted groups," reads a notice from the Town Clerk, Mr Christopher Dube.

However, the move has already raised the ire of residents who have questioned the reasoning behind holding the 2021 budget review at the same time as the 2022 proposed budget.

"The 2021 budget performance review is an essential process for residents to monitor the use of public funds by BCC and it will not be effective to combine it with the 2022 budget presentations. There is no reliable portal for residents to continually access information in order to periodically review the budget, thus this process is critical and should be given adequate time," reads part of a letter to the local authority from the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association co-ordinator, Mr Emmanuel Ndlovu.

Mr Ndlovu raised a red flag over the WhatsApp-based consultations noting that they were ineffective during the 2021 budget consultations. He noted that during last year's consultations, residents complained on the lack of data and inconvenient time slots allocated by council officials.

"The WhatsApp consultations were also inadequate for residents to make their contributions. Also due to clashing times, for these meetings the most relevant council staff to the budget process such as the finance director (Mr Kimptom Ndimande) could not attend all the meetings. Challenges arose as some of the council staff members who were allocated to conduct these meetings could not well articulate well the financial figures and components resultantly leading to futile deliberations," reads the letter.

The residents called on the local authority to hold the 2021 budget review and 2022 budget presentation separately and physically but limiting the meetings to 100 people as per the national lockdown guidelines. Last year BPRA had to purchase data for more than 1 450 residents in the city to ensure that they take part in the online budget consultative meetings.

Source - Sunday News