BY SILAS NKALA BULAWAYO City Council (BCC) councillors have shot down government’s directive that BCC should procure fire tender vehicles from Belarus.
A latest council report indicates that town clerk Christopher Dube recently told council that he had received a letter from the Local Government ministry stating that council must buy emergency fire tenders from Belarus using devolution funds. But councillors said fire tenders were not a priority and would instead use the devolution funds for other pressing issues such as rehabilitating the city’s collapsing infrastructure.
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Dube reported that a letter dated July 22 from the Local Government ministry stated: “As you would recall the matter to do with the supply of fire tenders and other emergency vehicles from Belarus has been under negotiation for more than a year, it involved consultations with local authorities and other stakeholders, over a long period of time.
“In order to ensure a co-ordinated payment modality, the government shall be paying the foreign currency equivalent directly to the supplier. Please be advised that your Zimbabwean dollar contribution towards the monthly instalments is a first charge against your devolution envelope.
“It is, therefore, critical that the amount for fire tenders and related equipment for your local authority is accommodated in your budget for utilisation of devolution funds. You can engage the ministry through the Financial Advisory Services for updates on devolution funding, taking into account this arrangement.”
The Local Government ministry said it had advised the Financial Advisory Services to communicate developments to council regularly so that council is able to plan and implement the city’s devolution projects effectively and efficiently.
Following the report by the town clerk, discussions ensued and Bulawayo mayor councillor Solomon Mguni expressed concern that council was never consulted.
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Noting that fire tenders are not a priority for Bulawayo at the moment Mguni said: “Council’s priority was to purchase yellow equipment for service delivery. Buying the fire tenders would cause a conflict between council and the ratepayers.”
Councillor Frank Javangwe said council had its own priorities which needed urgent attention, adding that devolution funds should be used on projects to address challenges faced by the city.
Councillor Lilian Mlilo weighed in saying the fire tenders were not a priority for the city and devolution funds should be channelled towards rehabilitating infrastructure.
The town clerk also informed councillors that chief fire officers (excluding Bulawayo) had visited Belarus to have an appreciation of the fire tenders.
He further explained that the fire tenders were huge and had a bigger carrying capacity compared to what the city currently had.
Dube noted that either way council stood to benefit from the fire tenders because of their effectiveness.
He, however, said policy makers in Bulawayo had the right to decide on what issues affected them most, and should not just accept what government is offering.
“The committee unanimously agreed that the council resolution on devolution funds be re-affirmed (because) fire tenders are currently not a priority. The council resolved and recommended that the request for funding the fire tenders using devolution funds must not be acceded to, instead, that council re-affirms the council resolution on the use and budget for devolution funds,” the minutes read.
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