Gweru-City Council is under investigation after the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) recently revealed that the local authority’s utilized US$ 6 870 815 of estate funds for recurrent expenditure.
The revelation was made on September 5, 2022 by Gweru Urban MP Brian Dube who also chairs the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in a Gweru residents WhatsApp group and said the actions by Gweru are in violation of section 30 (p) of the Urban Councils Act.
“We are doing audit analysis right now as Public Accounts Committee and Gweru City was red-flagged and identified by Auditor General Mildred Chiri’s 2020 audit report as operating without an accounting policy and Procedure Manual and no updated Asset register.
“There is no evidence of ownership of five vehicles purchased by council. A Mazda T3500 bought by GCC is registered in the name of a Mr T35. So there is a serious risk of misappropriation, fraud or material errors,” said Dube.
Gweru Residents Forum chairperson Charles Mazorodze said council is using 2014 issues as an excuse instead of being answerable to citizens.
“It’s a scapegoat that council is using to escape from previous council resolutions. With the current setup, there are still Councillors who served since 2014. What needs to be done is put strong control mechanisms like internal audits that are robust so that we can have a track record of various issues raised.
“It is critical that a proper and updated register is put in place, otherwise some of the properties might be misappropriated or council may not get revenue from some of the assets or properties. Council should own up and address issues that residents are demanding to know in terms of accountability,” said Mazorodze.
He added that the biggest challenge with council leaders is that they behave more like technocrats.
“We have a big challenge where we have policy makers behaving like policy implementers because they are justifying issues that are not up to standard with reference to their deliverables.
“If they put it as a standard of practice that we have accounts that are not audited or late then it becomes a serious problem of corporate governance wherein we are not in conformity with laws that govern how all councils should operate. We expect council through their mother bodies like Association of Rural District Councils (ARDCs) to lobby the Auditor General’s office as council themselves because they are the ones affected by failure of the auditor to issue out auditors. They should lobby at the highest level engage Urban Council Association of Zimbabwe to make sure issues are addressed promptly rather than short changing citizens,” added Mazorodze.
Gweru resident Tafadzwa Makore said this was a worrisome issue as it showed elements of lack of transparency.
“Purchasing and registering council cars under individual names, worse still without consulting residents and adding 10percent on bills every month shows some worrisome elements of lack of transparency,” said Makore.
However, contacted for comment Gweru Mayor Hamutendi Kombayi said he is not aware of such issues but only read them after Dube posted them.
“I just read about that from MP Brian Dube. I don’t have any informed detail about the matter,” said Kombayi.
Auditor General Mildred Chiri in her 2020 audit report said Gweru council utilizing estate funds for recurrent expenditure instead of capital expenditure as required by the Urban Councils Act while at the same time they unprocedurally allocated residential stands to minors.
Quite a number of local authorities were found wanting in various aspects of management though it remains to be seen whether they have fixed the problems to date.