Harare City Council’s abysmal record on matters of accountability would be funny if it was not so sad and infuriating. At a time its rate-paying and hard-pressed residents are trying to make ends meet, it emerges that the people entrusted with running the affairs of the capital siphoned over US$8 million disguised as packages for managers.
These so-called managers simply devised a scheme to wring every possible cent out of council coffers, and splash millions on allowances, personal vehicles and holidays that left an already struggling local authority’s coffers dry.
They were not just giving themselves top dollar for doing absolutely nothing, they went ahead to simply siphon 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. Because they could as apparently the checks and balances or internal audit systems are either non-existent or very flimsy at Town House.
If there ever was a case of the long arm of the law having reach, this is one of those circumstances that it should, however belatedly, catch up with such unchecked greed and corruption.
The audit report by a panel chaired by retired judge Justice George Smith on the executive management employment cost compliance has some parts that are particularly galling: “The human capital director recommended to the caretaker council a deviation from the Procurement Act and the normal procurement procedure of 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.
“In an interview with the human capital director, he specifically stated that the reasoning behind the deviation from 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.”
So, the thieving officials knew exactly what they were doing and why, fully aware that chances of getting caught were slim, if any. It explains why Harare has become the epicentre of corruption: its mayor is currently under arrest for corrupt shenanigans while his predecessor is awaiting trial for similar crimes.
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In October, the deputy mayor aborted a full council meeting and escaped through the window barefoot after police besieged Town House and arrested 21 councillors over alleged land scandals. Last week, reports suggested he was in hiding.
Harare residents deserve better than these malcontents ruining their city.