Elusive public participation: citizen decision-making in budget formulation process in the city of Harare, Zimbabwe
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Decentralisation envisages the public contributing to decision-making and governance in state institutions. The decentralised state is not complete without actors like ordinary people contributing to decision-making in local government institutions. Evidence of decentralisation in Africa reveals that there are very few cases of successful
public participation in local government institutions. This paper focuses on the effectiveness of public participation in the decision-making process in decentralised local government institutions in Zimbabwe. It contributes to the broad literature on transitioning from traditional representation in democracies to citizen-centred and citizen-driven decision-making. The paper explores how the residents of the City of Harare (COH) contribute to decision-making through the city's budget formulating process. The decision-making process is examined under the key elements of public participation which are inclusiveness, openness, accountability and responsiveness. This study is based on the interviews and observations made during the 2015 budget formulation process in the COH. The study findings reveal that public participation is not effective, and there are serious issues which need to be addressed to improve public participation in the COH. There is very little public participation to the extent that the residents do not have control of what happens in the COH except for voting for councillors. It is proper to argue that in the COH, there are no proper community participation platforms. This leads to a lack of accountability, openness, responsiveness and effectiveness of the system of public participation in the COH.