HomeNewsCouncil top brass in US$8m binge

Council top brass in US$8m binge

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FORMER Harare City council top brass are facing arrest for illegally authorising over US$8 million in packages for managers and splashing millions on allowances, personal vehicles and holidays that milked the local authority coffers dry, NewsDay has learnt.

BY MOSES MATENGA

Anti-corruption hawks are now investigating the illegal spending, which prejudiced the cash strapped council of millions in United States dollars between 2014 and 2015.

One of the culprits, human capital director Cainos Chingombe has since been arrested by a police special unit working in conjunction with the Special Anti-Corruption Unit (Sacu). He is expected to appear in court today.

The council top brass, on top of gobbling over US$500 000 a month in salaries, also unprocedurally used over US$530 000 of unbudgeted funds to purchase top-of-the-range vehicles that include a Jeep Grand Cherokee, Toyota Land Cruiser 200 series, Toyota Land Cruiser pickup, a Land Rover Discovery and Toyota Land Cruiser Prado.

Sacu head Tabani Mpofu confirmed the probe.

“Yes, the special unit of police is seized with the matter,” Mpofu said.

“There are too many objectives that include prosecution of those who will be found in the wrong and recovery of funds that might have been stolen from residents in the currency the money was stolen in,” Mpofu said.

Police special unit sources also confirmed the broad investigation that officials say may be centred around an audit report on the executive management employment cost compliance that was chaired by Retired judge Justice George Smith. A total of US$6 251 937 was
used as retrenchment packages for at least 10 top managers then, with Stanley Mungofa the highest earner, pocketing a cool US$1 747 232,05 in 2015.

Others received stands and houses free of charge on top of the hefty packages as part of their retrenchments.

Those who benefitted from the illegal dishing out of pecks, according to the report, include former Chamber Secretary Josephine Ncube and Tendai Kwenda (Finance), acting town clerk Prosper Chonzi among others.

“The tribunal notes that there was no retrenchment policy in place at the time that the negotiations were undertaken and the amounts paid as retrenchment packages were not budgeted for,” the report read in part.

“The human capital director recommended to the caretaker council a deviation from the Procurement Act and the normal procurement procedure of the council in his report tabled before the council on July 30, 2013. The recommendation was unlawful and the chamber secretary, as chief legal advisor, ought to have warned council against sanctioning such blatant breach and contempt of the law,” the report read in part.

It added: “In an interview with the human capital director, he specifically stated that the reasoning behind the deviation from the normal procedures was to circumvent procurement processes which he felt were unnecessarily cumbersome, a position that had been discussed at length with the town clerk and the chamber secretary.”

In the process, the officials used money from the traditional beer levy account for their personal benefit, something the tribunal found to be unlawful.

“The diversion of the funds to the personal benefit of a select group of members of the executive of the management was illegal. The purchase of vehicles by members of the executive management was also unprocedural in terms of the council’s own policies and procedures. The vehicles are not on the council fixed assets register.”

It also emerged that the managers received contact leave payments despite the fact there was none of them studying or researching on anything.

The executives also drew thousands in holiday allowances, but could not present proof of travel.

The tribunal recommended that all beneficiaries who received holiday allowances return the money.

Council failed to provide contracts of employment of the executives to the tribunal.

“The tribunal noted that accessing the contracts of employment for the executive was a tall order with Ncube saying the contracts had been taken away by the auditors from the Ministry of Local Government, a development that shocked the investigating team,” the report read in part.

“It seems improbable that the council would surrender the originals of such important documents or itself remain without copies thereof.”

“Dr Cainos Chingombe, however, later claimed that the copies of the contracts of employment for the senior executive were locked away in the former town clerk’s office and that he would have to go and forcibly enter the office to retrieve the copies of the employment contracts. To access them, he told the tribunal that the offices would have to be broken into.”
The tribunal accused Ncube of having tried to bar the tribunal from accessing the contracts.

There were also cases of undocumented promotions and allowances.

Council illegally awarded hefty allowances to its executives that included a professional allowance, retention allowance, representation allowance, entertainment allowance, contact leave allowance, housing allowance, domestic allowance and telephone allowance.

The payment of the said allowances in 2015 was despite a 2013 ministerial directive to discontinue paying them.

It also emerged that funding of the payroll account was made verbally and without any request for documentary evidence, a position that also baffled the tribunal.

There was also no audit of the executive payroll.

The tribunal noted that at a time the managers were enjoying hefty pecs, the financial status of the city was in a bad state.

On bonuses, it emerged that only seven out of the more than 40 managers on the executive payroll received bonus, itself an irregularity.

Former town clerk Tendai Mahachi received over US$135 100 in bonus in 2013 and 2014 while Chingombe received us$112 000. Ncube pocketed US$122 000.

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