Treasury has cautioned district councils against twisting existing procedures regarding usage of development budgets.
The warning comes amid growing disagreements in several district councils over how the funds should be allocated.
Procedurally, these funds are supposed to be used based on district development plans (DDP), but in several councils, members of Parliament (MPs), councillors and traditional leaders are not in favour of the system.
The council members want to apply a formula of equity (to equally share the funds among constituencies and wards), a move a local governance specialist says poses a threat to accountability issues.
Treasury spokesperson Nations Msowoya said in an interview that while the Ministry of Finance has not received a formal complaint on the disagreements, rules on usage of development funds remain unchanged.
He said: “In the absence of a formal complaint, the existing rules are applying. Like at the central level, we use plans and budgets… And the same is also applicable at the council level not some people with some loose arrangement just deciding.”
Msowoya said the DDP remains the guideline for resource allocation, which also talks to the national plan, and must always be complied with.
But governance specialist Henry Chingaipe said it was rather odd for government to wait for a formal complaint from the councils contravening the procedures before acting.
He said: “If the government does not stop this madness then development planning in this country will go berserk.”
The analyst feared that abandonment of DDP risks the development budget becoming another constituency development fund (CDF).
He observed that the equity formula actually represents inequity though in nominal terms it is being justified on the basis of equity.
Chingaipe said this was because council members have “conflated the meaning of equality with the meaning of equity.”
He said: “The truth is that wards and constituencies are at different levels of development so much that in pursuit of equity [fairness] they cannot be allocated equal amounts,” he said.
The development, Chingaipe said, would also result in the National Local Government Finance Committee failing to monitor and audit the use of resources as their benchmark document would become useless and funds spent on unbudgeted for projects.