By Staff Reporter
Finance and Economic Development Minister Mthuli Ncube has refused to increase the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) from the current ZW$175 000 arguing that the amount is adequate if it is effectively used.
The concept of the CDF was introduced during the time of the inclusive government with the aim of enabling legislators to help champion development in their constituencies.
When it was introduced (CDF), the country was still using the United States Dollar and was pegged at about US$50 000 per each constituency.
However, due to changes in economics in the country over the years which saw the country dumping the multi-currency system, CDF is now pegged at ZW$175 000 and legislators are of the view that it is too little due inflation and they want it raised for the 2020 financial year.
Speaking during a budget debate in the National Assembly Kambuzuma legislator Willias Madzimure said ZW$175 000 is not enough to leave landmark development as is expected by people.
However, in his response Minister Mthuli Ncube, the amount allocated is enough at current levels and that there is no chance of benchmarking it against the interbank rate.
“On the CDF, again Members will be aware that even just finishing off the monies for this year has not been easy for them. First of all, we had to establish accounts and so forth.
“Really at the current levels, we think that the CDF is adequate if it is being used effectively. We are looking forward to that.
“Certainly, you request that perhaps we should use the interbank rate or US dollar benchmark. Obviously, we cannot do that. We have not done that for the whole budget.
“We did say that in the entire budget, no item got more than it requested except for the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development. It is very consistent but we look forward to Members making use of the CDF properly,” he said.
Mutare Central legislator Innocent Gonese also supported the idea of increasing CDF arguing that it will be wrong to equate CDF with funds allocated to ministries.
“When this was initially allocated, it was $50 000. If you look at what was the prevailing rate, in fact, it was 1:1 with our bond.
“If you look at it now, the interbank rate which is not even the real rate, but even if you want to give the benefit of the doubt and use the interbank rate if you multiply 50 by 16, you get $800 000. Whilst I appreciate that the budget is expressed in RTGS$, my point is that we must not equate this Constituency Development Fund with other disbursements made in respect of the different Ministries,” he said.
Honourable Gonese added that “the reason is that the people who voted for each of the individual Members of Parliament have got their own expectations. The concept of the CDF was meant to enable an individual Member of Parliament together with the Committee to identify the peculiar and particular needs of each constituency.
“I would, therefore, submit that there is a need to revisit the figure which is allocated. The figure of $175 000 is a pittance and at the very least, assuming that the interbank rate is going to hold its own, let us have at least a minimum of $800 000 allocated,” he said
Speaking on the same issue, Marondera Central legislator Caston Matewu concurred with those calling for an increase adding that there is also a need for constituency offices.
“Given the inflation that we have had over the past year, it is preposterous to have the CDF budget the same as this current year. So, the first thing that we want Mr Chair is we must have the constituency offices and staff included in this budget.
“Secondly, we must ensure that we raise the current CDF from where it is on RTGS$175 may be to about RTGS$400 000, given the projection in terms of the inflation and if the Minister is serious saying that we will have growth or some kind of growth in 2020, then it is import that we also increase the CDF,” he said.