A SPECIAL committee established to probe operations at Beitbridge Municipality has made startling revelations at a time service delivery in the border town has hit an all-time low.
BY REX MPHISA
The 14-page report, titled Investigation into the Failures in Service Delivery for the Municipality of Beitbridge, compiled by a nine-member team including three sitting councillors, a lawyer, an engineer, a former councillor and some residents, is frank and damning.
Beitbridge town’s ward 5 policymaker councillor Granger Nyoni chaired the team of investigators.
Central in the report is the inadequacy of the municipality’s engineering department, whose actions border on criminality and corruption. Rampant disharmony in organs of the council is highlighted, with the public relations section attacked for poor report backs to stakeholders.
Conflict of interests, some of it warranting criminal prosecution, is highlighted in the document which also questions the professional qualifications of staff in some key areas.
The special nine-member committee came short of recommending dismissals of some heads of departments, but stressed the need for competent manpower recruitment and purchase of equipment if the municipality is to effectively execute its mandate.
Most shortcomings expose serious health challenges with recurrent sewer bursts and open defecation.
Lack of accountability by management reigns supreme and no action has been taken against staff accused of soliciting for bribes.
The local authority does not have any records of its core services, and these were last compiled in 2016.
Town clerk Loud Ramagkapola said: “Well, it is a reflection of what is on the ground. Some of it could be attributed to poor planning like Garikayi/Hlalani Kuhle and unserviced stands we inherited and are currently working to address.
“We now need to work round the clock, upgrade the sewer mainlines and also correct mistakes made in the past. We are working … on delivering services.”
The local authority is ill-equipped and poor management of existent machinery is rife, according to the report whose findings were made public in a special full council meeting on Thursday.
The report says equipment in the council workshop is aged, poorly managed and private jobs undertaken there are frightening.
“We are looking at getting an additional refuse compactor to attend better to waste collection. Our population is ballooning. We have to respond to its needs,” Ramagkapola, whose municipality is home to Zimbabwe and sub-Saharan Africa’s busiest dry port, said.
“We appeal to stakeholders and donors to respond to our cries. Ratepayers should help the situation by paying up,” Ramagkapola added.
The local authority has a 295-strong workforce of locals some employed ahead of better qualified personnel.
Beitbridge Municipality, an otherwise underfunded entity, serves a growing resident population of about 70 000 and a transit population of about 18 000 daily.
Residents, staff and service providers were interviewed and the entire town was combed in site visits to produce the detailed report.
The report also dwells on poor junior staff supervision.
It touches on unfinished projects mostly in the engineering department where Ramagkapola or auditors should investigate cases of conflict of interest involving top management and duplication of tender awarding.
“The auditor to be engaged on all issues that need further investigations (for example conflict of interest issues, certified shoddy workmanship),” the report read.
“Your Worship, based on site observations and interviews with key personnel in service delivery, this report provides a detailed probing of issues in the following areas: Sewer blockages, roads, bus terminus, vehicle pillage at the workshop, refuse collection, Zimbabwe National Roads Authority (Zinara) acquittals and water reticulation.
These areas were thoroughly investigated with a view to establish the reasons for what was evidently unsatisfactory service delivery,” the report, addressed to mayor Morgan Ncube reads.
“After critical discussions on observations and conclusions, the committee came up with possible remedial recommendations which range from recruitment, selection and placement of suitably qualified personnel, to procurement of key service delivery equipment and vehicles.”
The report recommendations were premised on the need to adhere to standard operating procedures and general statutory requirements and the need for a well-monitored implementation.
The report furthter notes that response to customer complaints deteriorated from 2017 from 96,4% to 91,7%, while intra-departmental communication is weak.
“There is inadequate high-level qualifications in the engineering department for major civil works projects, and lack of supervision by the head of engineering services as indicated in the minutes of a meeting with contractors held on the 20th of February 2018.”
The report also criticised the lack of harmony between Zinara and council, resulting in poor or non-maintenance of roads.
“The town clerk must immediately restore order of a seemingly disjointed department of engineering and restoration of a clear management and reporting structure in the department,” the report recommended.
Ramagkapola was also asked to be firm and present a time-framed, costed implementation matrix for all recommendations at the next council meeting.
“As management, we accept the report and agree with the conclusion and recommendations. We are already working on an implementation matrix and every full council we will be apprising council on the progress in each of the recommendations,” Ramagkapola said.