US$17k Chipinge toilet raises stink

The local authority is in the eye of a storm after social media went abuzz with the reports that the council had spent such a hefty amount on a single basic toilet, whose cost does not tally with the price.

CHIPINGE residents have invited the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) to investigate Chipinge Town Council over reports that it spent US$17 000 on construction of a cemetery toilet.

The local authority is in the eye of a storm after social media went abuzz with the reports that the council had spent such a hefty amount on a single basic toilet, whose cost does not tally with the price.

“As residents, we have been left with no choice except to demand an explanation on the circumstances surrounding the construction of this toilet. Something is not clear here. Why should a basic toilet cost that much? We are sick and tired of the rampant corruption that is taking place at the council,” said Rodrick Mlambo, a Chipinge resident.

In an interview with NewsDay Weekender on Friday, acting town secretary James Matemera confirmed that the toilet was built at a cost of US$17 000 at the interbank rate.

“Yes, the construction was done at that amount payable at the ruling interbank rate,” he said.

Residents and stakeholders in Chipinge have been outraged by the development and have called for an independent audit of the project.

Chipinge Residents Trust chairperson Avrante Mahlupeko said: “The building of a US$17,000 toilet at the town cemetery by the Chipinge Town Council is another example of corruption by the councillors and the acting town secretary. A US$17 000 toilet, which by most estimates should have cost US$4 000 or less, makes Chipinge Residents Trust wonder about the bidding process and who benefited from the US$13 000 excess.”

Mahlupeko added that residents deserved better service delivery and accountability from public office bearers.

“Indeed, as residents we deserve better than a gang of thieves making decisions impacting the town and its hardworking, vulnerable citizens. The councillors involved, along with the acting town secretary, have proven that they are not qualified and don’t have the honesty, transparency and integrity to carry out their duties,” he added.

Mahlupeko said residents were calling for an audit by the Auditor-General and they have already submitted a report to Zacc.

“These administrators should be relieved of their duties immediately and criminal charges levelled against them,” he said.

Mutemera maintained that the construction of the toilet was “above board” and “all tender procedures were properly followed”.

The tender was awarded to Gwenzi Hardware in March this year on a fix and supply basis, he said.

“This is not a toilet alone, there was civil work done. It was a combination of a lot of things. Firstly, this was a tender of water flushing toilet construction, including civil works.

"The cemetery area is not serviced, so the works included water pipeline construction of about 3km to the toilet. There was a septic tank and soak away construction. An office was built as part of the toilet. The toilet is a modern water system toilet with all state-of-the-art plumbing and all modern fittings inside,” Matemera said.

Sources within the council said some top officials and named councillors benefitted financially from the project.

But Matemera said the accusations were coming from council foes.

“This is just negative publicity by a few to tarnish organisational image,” he said.

The local authority is not new to controversy as the same administration last year purchased a faulty compactor and a water bowser that was never delivered.

The compactor, worth US$72 000, was procured using devolution funds and it developed a mechanical fault a few minutes after it started working and has been stuck along Moodie Street in the central business district since then.

The compactor was bought from a Harare-based company.

During the same year, the council further awarded a water bowser tender to the same company worth US$62 000 and the company failed to deliver.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa this week said local authorities and the public service should not be treated as havens for corruption and looting.

“Integrity, accountability, and transparency must be the cornerstones of officials working in our public entities,” Mnangagwa said.

“The trend of numerous arrests of both senior council officials and Councillors over a litany of corruption charges is untenable. Local authorities and the public service must never be treated as spaces for stealing and looting that which belongs to the people of Zimbabwe.”

He added: “The Ministry of Local Government and Public Works, together with law enforcement agencies must take a lead in ensuring that corruption and abuse of public resources in the sector is eliminated.”

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