Reform exercise back on track

constitution_reformsHARARE --Zimbabwes constitutional reforms that were grounded this week because of cash shortages are back on track after the government agreed to pay for fuel supplies.

Douglas Mwonzora, joint chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee or COPAC, said an outreach programme to record citizens views had been rescheduled, but warned that similar problems could affect the reform process unless more cash was made available to the committee.

The outreach programme stopped on Wednesday in most parts of the country after state-owned firm, the Central Mechanical and Engineering Department (CMED) refused to supply fuel insisting the COPAC first pays for 60 000 litres of fuel previously supplied.

The United Nations Development Programme, which is mobilising donors funding the constitutional reforms, refused to pay for the fuel because it was not in the original budget. The government did not have cash to clear the CMED debt on time.

We had been telling Treasury all along that we were running out of fuel but they were taking their time. They only responded when there was a crisis. We are happy that we back on the ground rescheduling cancelled meetings but we fear a repeat of this if the payment system is not changed, said Mwonzora.

Under the current system, COPACs role is limited to identifying service providers. The government and the UNDP, which is footing the larger chunk of the reform expenses then pay directly to suppliers, a situation Mwonzora said resulted in bureaucratic delays.

Copac has been trying to convince both the government and donors to release money directly to us so that we manage our own affairs smoothly. Their fears that the money could be misused are misplaced because we have the capacity to account for every cent, said Mwonzora.

Copac has experienced recurrent cash problems resulting in outreach teams being evicted from hotels for non-payment and drivers embarking on industrial action to press for pay.

Constitutional Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga said the UNDP and government would continue handling cash aspects of the constitution reform process.

It is a proposal that is unlikely to be adopted. These hitches can always be solved and it is not as if we are completely off the mark. The process is going on well, said Matinenga.

The drafting of new constitution is part of reforms meant to entrench democracy in Zimbabwe.

The coalition government is expected to call fresh elections once a new constitution is in place although there is no legal requirement for it to immediately do so.

Zimbabweans hope a new constitution will guarantee human rights, strengthen the role of Parliament, as well as guaranteeing civil, political and media freedoms.

Post published in: World News

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