Yesterday we carried a story with the headline Chombo threatens to veto council budgets.
Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo has said he will reject any council budget that is not skewed in favour of service delivery.
We have the scandalous and criminal situation where council top managers countrywide, but particularly so in Harare and other big cities, have unilaterally awarded themselves what can only be described as obscene salaries and perks to the exclusion — in many cases, total exclusion — of service delivery.
At the administrative level, there could be urgent need for a completely new job evaluation because it appears recruitment is done haphazardly with square pegs in round holes.
There are a lot of misfits at the top. The state of neglect at Rowan Martin Building, the main council administrative hall and revenue collection point for Harare City Council, is reflective of the rot. The grime on the torn leather seats for the public at the enquiries section is an eyesore. It paints a picture of neglect.
The second step is to get rid of these top executives who made a fortune from the council without nothing to show for it in the form of service delivery. Expecting the same characters who superintended over the rot to stop the same is not logical or practical.
In fact, they have thrived from the chaos and, thus, would not like it to end. You cannot expect a new ethical and honest mindset from such proven crooks who, in other countries could be languishing in jail and the gains from their ill-gotten wealth confiscated by the State for disbursement to where it rightly belongs: council offers.
But the fundamental issue of service delivery has remained unresolved for years. It is clear that there has been no political will to break the logjam.
Many of those council bosses earning obscene salaries are known to be connected to Zanu PF bigwigs.
And there have been suggestions that Chombo himself has been tainted through his closeness to named council bosses. The fact that he has defended and protected them from justified grounds of dismissal by duly elected councils legally empowered to fire them further tarnishes him as being the powerful individual behind all this mess. It cannot be seen in any other way.
Chombo said he would only approve budgets with 70% earmarked for service delivery and the remaining 30% to salaries and wages. This is stating the obvious as stipulated in the Urban Councils Act.
If Chombo was pro-active and decisive enough from day one in the Local Government portfolio, he would not still be talking about this. It is not a new issue, but it remains an issue because of his failure to act when he should have.
“Emphasis this year is being placed on ensuring that these budgets are compliant with the 30:70 salary-to-service delivery ratio,” Chombo said. What about preceding years? What was the emphasis on last year, for instance? Did he shelf his responsibilities over the previous years? That is dereliction of duty.
So, is Chombo the right person to tackle this when he did practically nothing for years as everything spiralled into chaos? Logic and common sense says no. Only a new broom will sweep clean.
So, Chombo must do the right and honourable thing: Resign. Minister, you are not the solution, but the real problem as the biggest impediment.
However, we must concede that this won’t happen because his boss, President Robert Mugabe, rewards political loyalty, not performance. So, all the rot can be traced back to Mugabe.