For the first time in 15 years, Kwekwe residents rejected the 2011 proposed budget by the local authority citing mismanagement, corruption and abuse of public funds by council.
“We will not discuss a new budget until you come here with answers over allegations of corruption in council,” the residents fumed. “We want to know how you spent our money in the last financial year and an update on the charges being faced by city treasurer Albert Zingwe.”
The residents were led by secretary-general of the Kwekwe Ratepayers’ Association Alex Homela at a stakeholders’ budget consultation meeting last Friday.
The meeting was chaired by council’s finance committee chairperson Queenly Chitopo. Residents demanded to know why the local authority continued to pay an acting city treasurer two months after Zingwe returned to work from forced leave.
Councillors and management present were unable to provide answers to questions by the residents. In fact, at one point, acting city treasurer, Morris Mutema was left almost in tears when ratepayers told him to his face to go back with the draft budget and consult Zingwe (who is still officially suspended) on how to draft a proper document.
“You are not competent to draft a document which will carry the city through to the next budget,” a local businessman, Obert Mandonye, charged. “We urge you to go and consult Zingwe before we can approve this nonsense.”
This came just days after Kwekwe city fathers, including councillor Weston Masiya and Aaron Gwalazimba, accused Mutema of “cooking figures” and incompetence.
Residents, who were armed with leaked documents, demanded to know why treasury had released two capital budget documents with different figures, a situation they said reflected council books were in shambles and needed auditing before a new budget could be accepted.
“We want council books to be audited first before we can begin to consider this proposal which we are positive contains figures ‘cooked’ somewhere in treasury, just to attempt to appease us,” said Malvern Tsutsu, one of the residents present at the meeting.
Mayor councillor Shadreck Tobaiwa said: “We noticed that some figures were not adding up and we had to do an inventory check on expenditure. Of particular interest was the issue of generators which council indicated to us had been bought for $8 490. When we demanded that the receipts be produced, we found that council had only spent $4 970.”
Council bought the two generators with the intention of powering civic centre in the face of load-shedding, but much to the surprise and anger of residents, the generators have since been moved to Musara’s residence.
Stakeholders resolved that no budget would be approved until the generators were brought back to Town House and questions on mismanagement answered in full.
Mutema struggled to defend his proposed budget as residents took turns to blast him and his team for incompetence and corruption.
Council had proposed an unchanged $14, 5 million budget, saying the stable economic environment would allow the local authority to manoeuvre within the 2010 budget next year. They also argued ratepayers had failed to pay their rates in 2010 and therefore council could not increase tariffs.
“There is no rationale in increasing tariffs for the ensuing year because council’s debtors’ book continues to swell,” read part of the statement.