Zimbabwean citizens capacitated to demand public accountability

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By Yollander Millin

The Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) was able to once again assist the citizens of Bulawayo to position themselves, and demand for transparency and accountability from duty bearers.

A group of residents, that offered equal representation of various diverse groups came face to face with public office holders on the 23rd of November, engaging in a dialogue that interrogated public service delivery issues as well as other governance issues that included public debt contraction and servicing.

Among the duty bearers who were responding to burning howfar questions were the member of parliament for Bulawayo central Constituency,Honorable Nichole Watson and Bulawayo city council representative from the finance department.

Key issues arising from this engagement stressed on the need for citizens to be able to identify developmental issues and set them apart from public service delivery matters. This, according to Honorable Watson, would help the citizens to then approach responsible offices, with particular questions so that they get the required responses.

Another piece of information that came to light was the need for citizens to mobilize themselves and push for the amendment of the by-laws that currently govern the city of Bulawayo, as they currently do not require for the public to be consulted before the introduction of a new budget. This means this piece of legislation is not inline with the provisions of the constitution.

The citizens were further surprised to find out in the same meeting, of the acceptable way of filing complaints or petitions that are meant to stop the execution of proposed actions. The City Council representative highlighted that the citizens should file complaints as individuals and up to the number of 30 complaints were required to stop the proposed 2022 budget from going through, as opposed to sending the complaints as organizations or groups as the residentsofBulawayo had done. ” Once a single sheet of paper is sent as a complaint or petition, regardless of the number of signatures it has, it is considered as one complaint”, he said.

Most of Bulawayo residents were not happy with the local budget consultation process that was mostly on whatsapp platforms and sought to stop the proposed 2022 budget proposal from being submitted to the Ministry.

ZIMCODD remains an integral part in the formulation of pro-people policies and systems, as it continously creates platforms that raise awareness, encourage engagement between citizens and duty bearers, as well as creating opportunities for accountability, transparency and other principles of public finance management to be demanded in a progressive manner.

The Coalition is therefore encouraged to continue with its splendid work of bridging the information gap and investing in people for social and economic justice, and it should ensure that it cascades its programs far and wide to, include all vulnerable groups and marginalized places in and out of Bulawayo.