THERE was chaos at Mutare City Council on Wednesday January 20 from residents and civic society groups that called for an overhaul of management at the Civic Centre following a leaked report of gross corruption.
Although the havoc got abruptly diluted following a confrontation between two rival factions, one led by Dangamvura-Chikanga legislators Esau Mupfumi and the other by known city hooligans whom the legislator accused of being hired to drive Council management’s agenda, the residents however still demanded for answers concerning revealed in the leaked report.
The Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, Saviour Kasukuwere, prior to the demonstrations, a week before had addressed a full council meeting, presenting audit report findings to the Mayor of Mutare, Councilor Tatenda Nhamharare, which he described as ‘a document full of puzzling transactions.’
The audit report exposed gross unprofessional conduct in handling of financial affairs of the cash strapped municipality which has failed to pay workers in eighteen months.
Ironically the Local Government Minister had revealed that salaries were consuming the largest chunk of revenue with top management consuming hefty allowances, loan advances among other pecks at the expense of service delivery.
In the report the engineering department was accused of unaccountability of proper records for council-owned land.
“The engineering department was not maintaining proper records for the council stands. Stands were being issued for sale without proof of payment.
“There were isolated cases of dual allocations which were noted, and the council swapped its debt for land.
“Senior management paid itself unbudgeted for expenditure in respect of allowances such as holiday, water, electricity housing and school fees for their children attending expensive private schools,” read the report.
According to the audit report, the allowances were also not disclosed as required in terms of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards which requires disclosures when there are changes.
In his address to the scores of residents he had allegedly bussed to the Civic Centre, Hon Mupfumi said corruption was rampant at the local authority as exposed by the audit report.
He said regardless of poor service delivery and failure to pay employees for the past 18 months, managers were sending their children to expensive schools abroad and awarding themselves hefty allowances.
“We are saying no to all this. I assure you they are on their way out (managers),” he said.
Hon Mupfumi added that the poor service delivery in the city was now unacceptable and derailing growth in the fourth largest city in Zimbabwe.
In the leaked report Minister Kasukuwere had revealed that the local authority was operating unsustainably producing a budget which was parallel to revenue collections and accrued expenditure.
“Secondly, the city is operating in defiance of the Urban Councils Act, Public Management Act, and various government policies and rules and procedures.
“What comes out is that your council is in serious financial crisis your various creditors $19 million and you are also owed $13 million. We have to take our responsibilities seriously.
“On top of this workers have not been paid for a very long time. You have an unsustainably huge workforce 1501 and this constitutes 85% of your revenue leaving 15% for service delivery the real work of the city council,” read the report.
Hon Mupfumi on the day later on formally lodged a complaint at Mutare Central Police Station under case RB 2672734.
The Minister of State for Manicaland Affairs Mandi Chimene is also on record to have called on councilors demanded the sacking of senior management at the local authority.
Clr Nhamarare however said the fate of management now lay in the hands of the councilors to read the full report and decide among themselves who should be axed. Residents called for less interference by politicians in council business urging them to lead by example in paying rates.
“ We should not only blame council management but look at our councilors and legislators who are interfering with day to day business. We understand people like Hon Mupfumi owe council more than $96000 which has been accumulating since 2009.Our leaders should lead by example,” said one resident that requested anonymity.
Corruption is rated to be chief among the major derailments of any economic turnaround blueprints instigated by Government in Zimbabwe. A December 2014 Transparency International report ranked Zimbabwe 156 out of 175 highly corrupt countries in the 2014 Global Corruption Perception Index.
Government has also been criticized for not tackling head-on high profile corruption and corporate mis-governance cases.
Executives and senior managers involved in big corporate scam cases often evade imprisonment while petty fraudsters are the ones commonly jailed.