Top-earning local government employees such as town clerks and departmental heads should brace for a massive slash in their salaries as government moves to direct tax payers’ money more towards service delivery than lining individuals’ pockets, a government official has said.
The intended move has angered heads of council departments in Harare who argued that it would be unlawful.
Local Government deputy minister Sesel Zvidzai said in an interview yesterday that government investigations had uncovered that as much as 80 % of revenue realised by local authorities was channelled towards salaries.
Government policy is that at least 70 % of council revenue should go towards service delivery and not more than 30 % to salaries.
Zvidzai is leading a committee set up by his ministry to investigate the issue of allocation of councils’ revenue to find out if local authorities were abiding by the government-stipulated 70-30 service-to-salary ratio.
A member of the committee who declined to be named for professional reasons, said the committee, which was yet to complete its task, had exposed cases where council employees were taking home huge salaries and enjoying extravagant perks while the towns and cities they were supposed to look after were on the verge of collapse. The official said there were instances where town clerks were earning as much as $20 000 a month, a salary that would turn directors in some blue chip companies green with envy.
“I don’t think the move is illegal and we await the government’s move to cut salaries,”said one head of department at Town House, Harare.
“We are trying our best to bring back the capital city’s sunshine status and revenue has improved tremendously.” In the meantime, the majority of urban centres remained in a state of decay, with raw sewage flowing in perennial rivulets in streets and piles of uncollected garbage scattered in residential areas where water supplies are erratic.
“In our investigations, we have discovered that 80 % of revenue that is collected by local councils goes to salaries,” Zvidzai said.
“This is a major challenge for us and we are going to look into the Labour Act before we cut the salaries. But I can confirm now that the salaries will be cut.
“The ministry came up with a position after careful study that 30% of revenue is the maximum that can go to salaries while 70 % should fund service delivery.
“Every council must meet these requirements. However, from what local authorities have submitted to us, that is not what is happening,” he said.
A case in point is the small town of Bindura which made news in the past week. The town clerk is demanding and is entitled to $800 000 from the municipality in outstanding salaries and allowances for a period of about two years that he had been unlawfully dismissed.
The breakdown of the claims puts the clerk’s two-year salary at $112 000, his general allowances at a whopping $368 800 and council sanctioned holiday allowances of $104 160.
Bindura, and by the same standards, other local authorities, offer town clerks and their families holidays for which they book executive suites in luxurious hotels, hire vehicles and even buy personal clothing.
The clerks’ gardeners and cooks are also entitled to allowances – all coming from rate payers!
Remunerations for council employees are also according to the size of the town or city.
If the small mining town of Bindura can afford the kind of salaries and allowances of the magnitude that Mugogo must now get, according to his lawyers, it is difficult to imagine what rate payers in major cities like Harare must be paying their clerks and other senior council employees.
Efforts to obtain salary and allowances figures from the major cities of Harare and Bulawayo were fruitless as the human resources departments refused to divulge such information, citing confidentiality.
A source at Harare City Council’s accounts department however confirmed senior local government officials were gobbling huge chunks out of council revenue.
“Why do you ask questions whose answers are public knowledge? We may not have the actual figures but it is well known and even accepted that the big guys like town clerks, treasurers, heads of departments and directors, among others, are getting salaries in the thousands,” said the source
The system has been in place for many years but government seems determined to stop the gravy train.
The City of Harare had a heated debate over acquisition of luxury vehicles for heads of departments but a resolution was still made to buy the cars for all department directors.