CONSTITUENCY DEVELOPMENT FUND IN ZIMBABWE: A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS BY THE NATIONAL YOUTH DEVELOPMENT TRUST (NYDT)

Background and Rationale for the Constituency Development Fund

The Constituency Development Fund (CDF) is one of the initiatives that were launched after the formation of the Inclusive Government in the fiscal budget of 2009/ 2010. The CDF is meant to support developmental efforts at constituency levels while at the same time complementing other programs and projects launched at national level. A total allocation of US$ 8 million was set aside for 210 constituencies in the initial fund. From this amount, each Member of Parliament (MP) was given US$50 000 upon applying for these funds. Essentially, the fund provides additional resources for constituency development by channeling money to constituencies under the management of the MPs.

While these funds are meant to supplement the existing funding mechanisms for local government, they are also supposed to ensure that apart from attending parliamentary debates weekly, MPs also have a reason and obligation to go back to consult and give feedback to their constituents. In a budgetary statement by the Minister of Finance, Tendai Biti, he stated that

“the funds are meant for the construction of boreholes, the repair of schools and clinics, the purchase of electrical generators and building of market stalls” , and other development projects as identified and prioritised by the local citizens.

Therefore, the CD funds are meant to be used for bypassing the red tape procedures generally associated with government driven projects, as well as act as the necessary vehicle to foster development initiatives at constituency level under the constant guidance of the legislature.

The structure of management of these funds comprises the Member of Parliament (chairperson), councilors and the Senator. Overall, these funds are administered by the Ministry of Parliamentary and Constitutional Affairs on the basis of an annual development plan submitted by the Constituency. All this is meant to be guided by the constitution and accounting officers- comprising the Controller, Auditor general and Accountant General.

Unlike other development funds that filter from the central government through larger and more layers of administrative organs and bureaucracies, it is expected that the funds under this initiative go directly to local levels and thus provide people at grassroots levels the opportunity to make expenditure decisions as well as have a direct hand in the local development initiatives.

It is highly greatly understood that people at a community level are best positioned to dictate the pace of their own development and to align their problems to possible relevant solutions. This acts as a good initiative for Community Driven Development (CDD) that underlines the identification of the problems and solutions in the lower echelons of the community. Thus promoting community ownership, sustainability and reducing expenditure wastage. If implemented constructively, the CDF has a potential of enhancing the capacity of local communities in coping with the challenges they face.

An in-depth analysis of both institutional, design and implementation factors of community development, it is worth noting that central budget allocation can not wholesomely deal with very specific priority rankings of each local community needs and expectations but can be necessarily broader in focus. Hence the rationale of the CDF becomes relevant in targeting specific needs of relevant communities. Projects are generally expected to vary across constituencies given the different needs of each particular community.

The initiative further offers a possibility for decentralization of decisions and fiscal expenditure. Thus, moving communities from being too government dependent to independent societies. Views forwarded on the strengths of CDFs highlight that the initiative fits partially as a devolution model. Devolution involves redistribution of decision making power and authority through legislation (an act of parliament or the constitution) and characteristically involves the creation of political decision making units, mostly elected councils. The CDF program partially fits in the devolution model in the sense that it has been established through legislation and the MP who is responsible for the program in the constituency is an elected official. However, unlike in pure fiscal decentralization which is characterized by both revenues and expenditures, CDF is a one sided fiscal decentralization scheme since expenditure are not linked to the local revenue sources or fiscal effort. However, the fitting is not perfect to the extent to which the program is not managed through an elected council but rather through the Constitutional Parliamentary Affairs.

The CDF as a developmental program acts as a necessary platform for local communities to debate on the relevant issues that affect them. They prescribe their own solutions that dovetail neatly to their own needs and expectations.

The Efficiency and Efficacy of the CDF in Zimbabwe: A Perspective

Cases of MPs in Zimbabwe applying for the Constitutional Development Funds have been noted since their introduction in 2010. A total of 209 out of 210 MPs applied for the resources so as to foster development at their communities. According to parliamentary sources only Tsholotsho MP Jonathan Moyo did not apply for the fund. Up to date a range of projects have been implemented by various MPs at a community level. Examples of how CD funds have been constructively used thus far include that of Lobengula-Njube MP, Hon. Samuel Sipepa Nkomo, whose development committee had a total of 1,112 chairs repaired and 275 new ones bought, while 356 desks repaired and 15 new ones bought. The committee also donated new generators and science equipment to secondary schools in the constituency. The school furniture repairs were done by a group of young people in the constituency in order to create employment for the community.

Nomalanga Mzilikazi Khumalo of uMzingwane constituency reportedly allocated the $50 000 CDF to 20 wards and discussed with her councillors on how it could be used to improve standards of living in those communities. MP for Highfield East, Pearson Mungofa reported that the funds were utilized towards the drilling of boreholes in 3 primary schools in his constituency as well as purchasing furniture for secondary school. Another MP that has come out in the open on CDF is Margaret Zinyemba of Mazowe South who stated that the funds were channeled towards renovation of a number of schools and clinics in 9 wards . Other MPs that have been reported in the media as having used the CDF to benefit their constituencies include Fani Munengami of Glenview North and Thokozani Khuphe of Mzilikazi- Makokoba, among others.

Despite these positives the initiative presents opportunities for flaws both at an institutional and implementation level. The possibility of participatory problem identification and implementation is minimal. Few MPs have done concise consultations on the needs and expectations of the intended beneficiaries. Communities have been left out in the problem identification, project appraisal, project implementing stage and Monitoring stages. Particularly, the youths have been excluded in participating in such developmental initiatives. This has left most people not being aware what a CDF is and the role it is meant to play in communities. Similarly, majority of the people have difficulties in pin pointing the exact projects that fully utilized these funds. This situation is not peculiar to Zimbabwe as countries like Uganda showed that 87 percent of the population where not aware of these funds 4 years after they had been introduced . Such cases make it difficult for participatory monitoring and evaluation of identified projects. Thus, information gap in Zimbabwe has worked against the CDFs and reduced its effectiveness in contributing towards development.

The CDF in Zimbabwe has showen that there is lack of participatory accountable mechanisms. The institutional structures set around the CDF have somehow excluded communities. For example, the committees at a constituency level comprise of only the MPs, Councilors and the Senate with complete exclusion of members of the community. Cases of communities and civic organizations demanding accountability in the funds have caused a lot of controversy. For example, when Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) recently offered the residents of Magwegwe a platform to quiz their MP, Felix Magalela Sibanda, the organisation received heavy resentment from the legislature . Therefore, this shows heavy secrecy clouding the accountability of the funds hence leading members of the community to assume that the MPs have used these funds as a self enriching pot. There must be local means of accounting for the funds and committees must be obligated to hire local help for implementation of projects before hiring external services. This will ensure that there is job creation and resource retention within the constituency.

An in-depth analysis of economies of scale on the implemented projects has not been highly factored by most legislatures. This is quite true given the similarity of most projects that do not take advantage of the local resources of the intended communities. For example, most if not all projects have been focusing on drilling boreholes and purchasing furniture for schools and clinics, whilst development takes into account the size of the jurisdictions, population size, density, degree of urbanization, levels of education, poverty levels and scope of economic activities. From the range of projects noted this far, one might be mistaken to assume that these projects are meant for a homogeneous society. At another level failure to appreciate the economies of scale of a particular community generates a high risk of duplicating projects of local authorities. Some projects are not strategically positioned to utilize the internal resources of that particular community. As such some initiatives of the CDF are not in cohorts or are a mere duplication of the local authorities’ master plan.

Another issue worth mentioning is the fact that political leaders tend to view the CDF as an investment for their political careers. Politicians (MPs and Councilors) prefer projects that maximize political returns whereas the electorate would prefer projects that maximize their welfare. Though this from a general perspective may appear to be inconsonant but there are many cases where political maximization is not equivalent to welfare maximization. Thus, MPs end up dictating or utilizing the funds under the guise of their political intelligence. Theoretically, when these two clash the politicians can easily subdue the demands of the people or deprive them of the right to account for these funds.

Perhaps an overlooked issue is that the CDF has the potential of making the legislatures undermine their oversight role. There has been a general hype created on the issue of the CDFs and this has acted as centre of attraction for the MPs. Reports from the media show that the issue of CDFs has been one of the main issues discussed by the legislatures “in almost every parliamentary session” . Similarly the legislatures became so much engrossed in formulating and developing projects that are meant to consume the targeted funds thus neglecting their oversight role.

Recommendations

Given the state of affairs in the disbursement and institutional operations of the CDF, it is imperative for an in-depth repositioning of the funds as they have the potential of fostering community development.

• There is need for inclusiveness in the Constituency Development Fund. This could be achieved through incorporating community members in the committees that comprise of the local leadership, youths, the elderly, women, the physically challenged and child representatives amongst other sectors.

• There is a need for capacity and technical enhancement of Legislatures and communities in appreciating community development issues.

• CDF would be impossible to monitor in cases where there is no guaranteed access to quality information at ward levels. Legislatures should first seek to empower citizens and the youths with information regarding development projects and processes at their area to improve participation and accountability.

• MPs need to partner CSOs and CBOs in educating the citizens firstly on the role of MPs and secondly on how they could fully and effectively utilize these funds

• Identified projects should be submitted or drawn up in liaison with local councils so as to reduce elements of duplication, the creation of a parallel structure and the full exploitation of the economies of scale

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