An examination of the impact of contextual variables on the implementation of participatory budgeting system in Zimbabwe's local authorities : The case of Harare City Council (1995-2013)
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The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of the prevailing contextual variables on the implementability of participatory budgeting (PB) system in Zimbabwe‘s local authorities with special reference to Harare City Council (HCC). This study was undertaken against the background that the PB system had produced intended results in some local authorities (for instance in Brazil, United States of America, Britain and South Africa) and unintended results in others. This was mainly due to the fact that the PB system was transplanted from elsewhere where it recorded success stories and replicated in other different settings without taking into account different prevailing contextual factors. Against this background, the main objective of the study was to examine how contextual variables affect the implementability of PB system in HCC. The study adopted a triangulation methodology by using both methods. In sampling the respondents, the study used the purposive, simple random, snow-balling, cluster and systematic sampling techniques. Documentary search, key informant interviews and survey questionnaire were used in data collection. Content analysis, thematic analysis and descriptive statistics were used in the presentation and analysis of findings. Findings of the study revealed that the prevailing contextual variables in Zimbabwe generally and HCC specifically are inhospitable to the successful implementation of the PB system. These contextual variables are: resource constraints (in terms of human, financial, material, information and time), bureaucratic structures, perceived undemocratic political environment, flawed legislative framework, corruption, poor corporate governance, negative dispositions of PB implementers and communication problems. Also, findings of the study revealed that the HCC is not following the PB cycle according to the plan. This was demonstrated by the fact that most respondents indicated that PB consultations are conducted only to rubber stamp the already formulated final budget draft. Therefore, the major conclusions of this study are: the prevailing contextual factors in the country generally and HCC specifically are negatively affecting the successful implementation of PB system, and HCC‘s refusal to follow the PB cycle according to the plan is not conducive to effective implementation of PB system. Thus, this study is recommending that the HCC ought to follow the PB cycle according to the plan. Further, the HCC should tailor-made its PB system in order for the PB policy to pass the test of ‗good fit‘ within the context of implementation.