The statement below was delivered in the House of Assembly by the Deputy Minister of Local Government Marian Chombo. It apprised the House on the state of affairs in various local authorities.
Thank you Madam Speaker. The statement on the State of Service Delivery in Local Authorities – it is indeed tried that service delivery levels in local authorities in Zimbabwe have gone down deplorably over the years and this is not only a matter of interest to us as the parent ministry, but to the nation at large.
The recent tour by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Local Government, Public Works and National Housing is testimony of such national interest. I must point out from the outset that the worst performing are urban local authorities that notwithstanding the problems bedeviling our councils are generic in nature and recent investigations by my Ministry into the conduct of councils or officials in the last quarter of 2020 ca n confirm this.
These challenges range from cooperate governance collapse, obsolete and dilapidated infrastructure especially roads, street lightening and wash which is wash sanitation and hygiene infrastructure which is in part attributable to inadequate funding for capital projects.
It should be noted that major capital investment in infrastructure projects ended in the late 90s when most of our traditional development partners started to pull out.
As such, local authorities are now saddled with infrastructure that has since up lived its lifespan or no longer suffices for the settlements whose expansion has not been matched with the complementary infrastructural development.
This is particularly so in the key service delivery area of wash which is water and waste water treatment plants are continuously strained as they are being used beyond their design capacities while Central Government has continued to avail funding through PSIP, this falls short of the requirements which run into hundreds of millions if not more of USD.
To redress funding challenges, Government has all the webbing and encouraging as well as courting development partners to complement its own as well as local authority efforts.
In the Y sector for instance, local authorities have received tremendous support under the Zimbabwe Multi-donor Trust Fund while development agencies such as UNICEF, WHO, OX-FARM, GB, GO, GIZ, the Japan International Corporate Agency which is GICA and the ADB among a host of others have continued to offer invaluable financial and technical aid to our councils.
Countries like India and China have also availed loans for wash infrastructure rehabilitation through the India Exim Bank and China Exim Bank respectively. While we value these interventions, they still fall short of redressing the challenges that has accumulated over the many years.
We still encourage councils to enter into partnerships albeit baring in mind the need to safeguard their interest as well as the public resources over which they preside.
To this end, the reconfigured Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency (ZIDA) is there to give guidance to local authorities when they seek to enter into negotiations with potential partners so that the interest of the country and indeed the public at large are always given priority.
Regarding road infrastructure development, the Ministry is always consulting with the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (ZINARA) to deliberate on the yearly allocation of funds. As a matter of fact, the Ministry and local authorities are both represented on the ZINARA Board.
Once again, it is pertinent to point out that the funds generated from vehicle licencing and other road revenue streams are n ot sufficient to meet the demands on the ground.
To this end, the Ministry encourages local authorities to augment the annual ZINARA disbursements by setting aside funds from their own budget toward road maintenance and upgrading.
Further to the above, after consultation with the relevant line ministries, the Ministry agreed with councils to devote 20% of devolution funds towards road maintenance under the emergency road rehabilitation programme IRP in view of the bad state of the road network that has been exacerbated by the heavy rains.
In our efforts to enhance governance, the Ministry through legal advisors and with the assistance of the Attorney General periodically facilitates enactment of by laws to address contemporary challenges such as littering, food hygiene and city vending among others. It is regrettable that councils in some instances face challenges to enforce these by laws as citizens fail to comply.
We have since begun the process of lobbying for a municipality courts and arresting powers so that local authorities do not have to rely on the Zimbabwe Republic Police whenever they want to enforce their by laws.
Whilst the Ministry note that the administrative challenges caused by the seven Wards in Hwange Local Board where the later has no jurisdiction, it must be noted that we could not proceed with their incorporation before the expiry of the ten years from 2013 when the last administrative boundary demarcation was done.
That is notwithstanding all the necessary consultations with key stakeholders in the manner of the National Railways of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Power Company and Hwange Colliery have been satisfactorily done and immediately upon the next exercise in 2023, Hwange Local Board shall be one of the top priorities.
The House will also be aware that in the last quarter of 2020, I sanctioned countrywide investigations in all urban local authorities and some selected rural local authorities, pursuant to receipt of numerous reports of maladministration and abuse of public office by both councilors and officials.
They said investigations revealed serious policy and administrative malfeasances which my office is presently addressing.
I am confident that the intervention will restore some level of sanity that is consistent with such public office holders. I am privy to advise that Victoria Falls has since been awarded City status, and we envisaged the development to catapult economic growth – not only for the resort area, but also for the country at large.
The recent spate of suspensions, arrests and dismissals of senior local authority staff has crippled operations to some levels with acting personnel failing to make important Council decisions.
Madam Speaker, I shall be shortly appointing a new local Government Board whose task, inter alia, is to approve the appointment and dismissal of senior Council officials.
The placement of substantive office holders after undertaking a rigorous cleaning process is set to bring in some vibrancy in our ailing urban local authorities. The efforts to turn around the fortunes of our local authorities may not be realised without the cooperation of the entire Government architecture, noting that they are the third tier of Government.
In this spirit, central government has enunciated a clear devolution and decentralisation drive where you expect all Ministries to collaborate their efforts with Councils in their respective fields of technical expertise.
I have no doubt that if such spirit is sustained, the problems presently bedeviling our local authorities will be surmounted, I thank you.