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Kariba Municipality implements controversial supplementary budget

by Laiton Kandawire - A Patsaka-Nyaminyami CR Correspondent
01 Jul 2019 at 07:44hrs | Views
The Municipality of Kariba has with immediate effect implemented a hotly disputed Supplementary Budget. It came into effect on 1 June 2019, according to invoices seen by this reporter.

The budget formulation process itself was fraught with shortcomings, with residents claiming they were not consulted as expected and required by the guiding Urban Councils Act, Chapter 29:15. Stakeholders then submitted objections to the municipality's Town Clerk, Richard Kamhoti.

Of the 487 objections received, the Municipality of Kariba only considered and deliberated on 3 objections from KIARRA, KURA and TelOne. KIARRA and KURA are residents associations whilst TelOne is a state-owned enterprise operating in Kariba.

According to the Minutes of the Special Council Meeting held to consider the objections on 5th June 2019, 485 letters received from residents were treated as a KIARRA submission even though bearing different individual names because the "letters contained same contents".

All objections were dismissed as, according to council, they "did not meet the budget objections parameter as provided by the specifications of the Urban Council's Act Chapter 29:15 Sec 219 Subsection 3". The referred to section stipulates that the Council receiving such objections should reconsider it's budget proposals if "thirty or more persons who are voters or who are users of the service to which the tariff, charge or deposit relates". By merely failing to meet this parameter, the objections were rejected at face value, not based on merits or lack of same. This probably explains why the bulk of the objections were ascribed to KIARRA and treated as one objection. KIARRA claims to have filed one organizational objection, with the rest coming from individual residents who are both registered voters and voters of the services whose pricing they challenged.

What has riled residents' associations to the point of considering a legal route is the fact that the municipality implemented the budget without first seeking ministerial assent. They feel that having considered their objections, the Minister of Local Government, National Housing and Urban Planning would have declined to assent to the supplementary budget in its current form. The Urban Councils Act at Section 314 empowers the Minister to direct the council to reverse, suspend or rescind such resolution, decision or action of a council if not in the interests of the inhabitants of the council area concerned or it is not in the national or public interest. The Municipality of Kariba argues that it did not receive valid objections, therefore, there are no objections to present to the Minister concerned.

Local authorities are required to address objections before submitting the budget to the Minister for his assent. It is usually after the Minister's approval has been secured that a supplementary budget is then implemented.

Section 219 used by the Municipality of Kariba says "a council may, by resolution passed by a majority of the total membership of the council (a) fix tariffs or charges for...water etc, etc". This has been criticized as giving residents no meaningful participation, their role being limited only to objections to the charges which is reactive rather than proactive.

Residents were also demanding that besides tariff increases, council should effect austerity measures otherwise the gravy trains in municipalities will continue unabated at the expense of burdened residents. "It is not enough to increase rates without putting proper management systems in place. The bulk of the money collected will go to luxury individual items and travel instead of service delivery" claimed a resident on a social media platform.

At the time of going to print, it was not clear if residents will meet and pursue litigation. What is clear is that there is seething anger with the surreptitious implementation of the budget.

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Source - Laiton Kandawire - A Patsaka-Nyaminyami CR Correspondent

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