DZIVARASEKWA legislator Edwin Mushoriwa yesterday blasted government for its failure to fund commissions in the 2021 national budget, saying that this was a threat to democracy.
BY HARRIET CHIKANDIWA
Mushoriwa said this in response to a report by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice on the 2021 national budget which revealed that commissions such as the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC)and the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) were grossly underfunded in the budgetary allocations they received.
“It is true that the commissions are underfunded, and the government needs to know the importance of these commissions. The commissions need to work effectively, but underfunding stifles their work,” Mushoriwa told The Standard in an interview.
“Underfunding is a threat to democracy and these commissions are not functioning well because of lack of resources. This will kill the country in a way, because these commissions have to be funded in order for them to play their watchdog roles successfully.”
A report by the committee revealed that the NPRC was underfunded to the extent that this would prevent the commission from fully discharging their mandate of peace and reconciliation in the prescribed time period.
MPs said the NPRC made a bid for $304,5 million but Treasury appropriated a measly $49,5 million to them, leading to a negative variance of 74%.
“There is an unfortunate likelihood that the commission may not be able to fully perform the roles it was created for. The results of underfunding will manifest in a failure to achieve sustainable development goal (SDG 16) (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions) as well as social cohesion as enunciated in government’s national development strategy one (NDS1),” said Parliament.
MPs said with the gross underfunding of the NPRC to the tune of 89%, minimal work would be done in regard to victim support and gender diversity issues, and given that the NPRC has a lifespan of 10 years which will soon expire.
The Justice committee also said that the JSC was underfunded to the extent that they would not be able to cater for ancillary court administration expenses.
“Inadequate funding of the e-justice system project will continue to hinder the government’s efforts to improve the ease of doing business, hence affecting the country’s international rating on this parameter,” the report said.
They said lack of funding towards the operation of customary courts would leave the presiding officers, mainly chiefs and other traditional leaders, behind in terms of legal reforms and would reduce access to justice for rural areas.
On Zec, the Justice committee said they submitted a bid for $12,4 billion for 2021, but Treasury only allocated a paltry $2,3 billion to them.
“The $36.9 million needed to upgrade the elections data centre from the current ceiling of seven million voters has not been availed. Failure to upgrade it will disenfranchise new voters when the ceiling is reached. This will have an adverse effect on reforms that are ongoing.”
Parliament said as 2023 approaches when the country holds elections, there is need for adequate financing of Zec.