A CONSORTIUM of civil society organisations has called for a review of local government expenditure and procurement rules and regulations as a way of enhancing transparency and accountability in expenditure and procurement of CDF.

The CSOs include; Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR), Caritas Zambia, Caritas Solwezi, Forum for Democratic Processes (FODEP), Women for Change, In collaboration with Diakonia Zambia Country Office.

In a statement, Monday, the CSOs stated that while the CDF Act of 2018 provided workable guidelines in the management of the funds, a number of challenges lingered.

“On Friday 29th October 2021, the Minister of Finance Hon. Dr. Situmbeko Musokotwane presented the proposed 2022 national budget to Parliament. One intervention that has drawn interest, commendation and criticism is the over 1,609 percent increase to the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) from K249.6 million in 2021 to K4.01 billion in 2022. This translates to an increase from ZMW 1.6 million to ZMW25.7 per constituency. The government further targets to register 100 percent disbursement of the CDF to all the constituencies. This is in a bid to enhance social service delivery and citizen empowerment especially among youths and women. As a collection of CSOs, we wish to put it on record that while the CDF Act of 2018 provides workable guidelines in the management of CDF, in practice, a number of challenges linger. There are still a number of issues that need to be made clear stemming from the Budget speech,” they stated.

“Capacity of the local governance structures (WDC) – do these structures exist in all the constituencies and do they have the capacity to handle such a huge increase in the CDF allocation? The WDC guidelines provide for the establishment of the WDC by all the local authorities two months after every general election. However, there has been little or no financial allocation to the councils to undertake such activities despite most Local Authorities budgeting for formation of the WDCs in the past. This resulted in most Local Authorities failing to form WDCs. The process of the formation of the WDCs is quite tedious, time and financial consuming more especially that the rain season has commenced and most wards in most parts of the country become inaccessible. The government needs to ensure that all WDC are established, functional and have the capacity to manage the CDF funds and development projects in the area before any disbursement of CDF is made.”

The CSOs called on Finance Minister Dr Situmbeko Musokotwane to provide more guidance on the utilization of the CDF.

“The Minister of Finance needs to provide more guidance on what CDF will be used on and what it will not be used on. In his budget speech, Dr Musokotwane mentioned that some costs will not be met from the CDF. It is important for the public to know what the allowable and non-allowable costs under the ZMW 25.7 million are for the public to be able to effectively monitor utilization of these funds?” the consortium stated.

“We noted in the budget speech that certain tasks that were previously undertaken by the Central Government through the District Commissioners Offices will be incorporated in CDF which is managed by the Local Authorities working with the local communities. It is therefore very important that the Government provides guidance of what specific issues will be covered to avoid conflicting roles and responsibilities when administering the CDF.”

The CSOs stated that there was need for timely disbursement of the CDF to ensure that projects were completed on time.

“The late, inadequate and inconsistent release of the CDF allocation by the Central Government to Constituencies has in the past negatively affected the implementation of new projects or the completion of already existing incomplete projects. Ensure timely and non-discriminative (all constituencies) disbursement of the CDF allocation,” read the statement.

“Acknowledging that the current guidelines of the CDF were sufficient for the past commitments, there is need to ensure that the current pronouncement also takes into consideration the disbursement, utilization and monitoring of the CDF and also ensure that the government avails the disbursement plans to the nation at large in effort to enhance transparency and accountability in the management of CDF.”