By Daniel Chigundu
Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa says Government will soon be introducing the Constituency Development Fund Bill which is aimed at curtailing abuse of the facility.
The fund was established in 2010 during the time of the now defunct inclusive Government to support development efforts at constituency levels and compliment other programs and projects launched at national level.
According to the 2010 national budget statement, then Finance Minister Tendai Biti stated that the funds are meant for construction of boreholes, repairs of schools and clinics, purchase of generators, building of market stalls and other developmental projects as identified and prioritized by local citizens.
About US$8 million was initially set aside for the 210 constituencies, with each Member of Parliament (MP) given US$50 000 upon applying for the funds.
While other MPs used the money for constituency development, it is widely believed that some took advantage of the loopholes and porous monitoring to abused the facility and converted the funds for own use.
Answering a question from Muzarabani North legislator Alfred Mufunga who wanted to know when the Finance Ministry would avail the CDF to parliamentarians, Minister Chinamasa said government wants to put policy first before resuming the disbursements.
“Following Madam Speaker, alleged abuse of the funds by some legislators in 2011, disbursement of funds was halted to pave way for appropriate policy and legal framework to regulate the fund.
“I am informed by the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs that the Constituency Development Fund Bill is now in place and awaits consideration by the relevant committee of cabinet and by the Cabinet itself before it is submitted to parliament by the Honourable Vice-President as the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs,” said Chinamasa.
In 2012 about four legislators were arrested by the Anti Corruption Commission and appeared in court facing charges of abusing the CDF, however then Attorney General Johannes Tomana said there was no proper legal framework to successfully prosecute them.
Some of the legislator during the audits allegedly sent government auditors on wild goose chases as they disguised donor funded projects as their own as a way of covering abuse.
President Robert Mugabe when he officially opened the first session of the 8th Parliament in September 2013 enlisted the CDF Bill as one of the bills that was going to come before Parliament but up to now the Bill has not materialized.
While implementation of CDF has faced many challenges in Zimbabwe, it has however worked well in such countries as Kenya, Malawi, Namibia and Zambia.
By Daniel Chigundu