IN yesterday’s edition of NewsDay there were two stories involving two urban centres — Harare and Chitungwiza. The stories centred on issues to do with alleged abuse of public funds. In the case of Harare, we were told that council executives at Town House secretly awarded themselves hefty pay hikes in the region of 300%. This saw some getting salaries well over $30 000 at a time the lowest paid worker at Harare City Council is taking home a measly $222.
In Harare’s dormitory town of Chitungwiza, the council’s human resources (HR) boss was reportedly leaving large, having been awarded probably one of the most lucrative perks this country has ever heard of. The mouth-watering benefits read like the biblical beatitudes, except that these are to do with the many exciting perks and allowances drawn since 2014 by the now suspended Chitungwiza HR boss.
The situation in these two councils may just be a tip of a huge iceberg to what could be weighing down many of the country’s local authorities. What is quite perturbing is how all this is happening when year-in and year-out councils institute audits and draw up budgets that are supposedly meant to meet the mandated 70:30 service and wage ratio. How Harare and Chitungwiza municipalities hope to meet this ratio when they are allowing such obscene salary hikes bamboozles even the most unsophisticated ratepayer.
Is it any wonder that ratepayers across the country are being subjected to the most poor, if not dehumanising service given the council bosses’ apparent penchant for opulence? And in all this glaring mismanagement of public funds, where are the councillors?
It appears as if the councillors are mere figureheads, who have little to no power or say in how the councils’ monies are used. If these councillors are ceremonial, then why should the country’s citizens be abused by being asked to vote for people who have no say in how the voters’ hard-earned monies paid for services are used?
There is serious need for the country to revisit the issue of how our councils are run because executives appear to be having a field day abusing ratepayers’ monies for self-aggrandisement.
While it is fact that most local authorities are run by the opposition MDC, we wonder if the MDC is having any say in how these councils are being run in terms of revenue collections and expenditure. If they have a say then they are completely failing the ratepayers. But if they cannot control those administering the councils’ revenues and expenditure, then the country is in serious trouble and it needs to revisit how its local authorities are being managed. As it is, they are merely serving as feeding troughs for a privileged few fat cats.