Home » Governance » Mixed Fortunes for Municipal Authorities

Most local authorities faced a tough time in 2014 as residents defaulted on payment of rates despite a Government decision to slash all bills in July last year 2013 resulting in most councils failing to deliver basic services such as filling of potholes and providing clean water and sanitation to residents.

This saw most local authorities being forced to borrow money to finance operations.

By July the country’s major local authorities were owed more than US$500 million in bills by residents, Government, industry and commerce, a situation that saw various councils failing to provide basic services and payment of salaries.

Government and residents emerged as the biggest debtors.

Residents vowed not to pay for services claiming that local authorities’ bosses were earning obscene salaries.

Local Government Public Works and National Housing permanent secretary Engineer George Mlilo described the salaries as unacceptable saying senior officials at councils had agreed to comply with a Government directive to cap their salaries, but they circumvented the order by increasing their perks.

He said in Harare there were two conflicting statements the first one said the basic salary for the town clerk was US$14 000, while the overall gross is US$22 000 while directors had a basic salary of US$12 600 while pocketing US$19 900 after perks.

He said the other one showed that directors were earning US$4 600 while the full package was US$11 300.

Bulawayo town clerk was earning a US$5 100 salary but took home US$9 500 after benefits, while directors were earning a salary of US$4 600 and an overall pay of US$8 400.

The Gwanda town clerk was getting a salary of US$6 700, but pocketed US$16 700 after benefits.

In Gweru, said Eng Mlilo, the town clerk was earning a salary of US$2 700, but got US$6 300 after benefits, while the directors’ salaries were pegged at US$2 500, but getting US$5 900 after adding benefits.

Eng Mlilo said the Mutare town clerk was pocketing US$10 200 although he had a basic salary of US$3 500, while directors earned US$3 000 with an overall of US$5 800.

The ministry ordered a 70:30 percent service delivery to salary expenditure ratio.

Councils embarked on a retrenchment exercise with Harare shedding off more than 1 700 while Chitungwiza is battling to dispense with its huge workforce owing to financial challenges.

Corruption allegations were also levelled against some councils with Harare officials accused of inflating prices of equipment for the US$144,4 million loan agreement obtained from China to refurbish water and sewage treatment plants.

The loan that was guaranteed by the Government, was signed by town clerk Dr Tendai Mahachi, former mayor Muchadeyi Masunda and China National Machinery and Equipment Import and Export Corporation general manager Yang Yinan in 2010.

The city officials were accused of using part of the funds to acquire luxurious vehicles. Their parent minister Dr Ignatius Chombo defended them saying the budget had a provision for project vehicles.

Government’s tough stance on pollution also forced local authorities – who are among the country’s major polluters – to borrow millions of dollars to rehabilitate sewer and water infrastructure.

The Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim-Asset) Cluster on Infrastructure and Utilities emphasises the need for robust, elaborate and resilient water and sanitation infrastructure for economic growth.

A Cabinet committee was established to probe causes of water pollution and raw sewage disposal, and to rectify the situation. Councils resorted to borrowing to repair sewer and water infrastructure as most were collecting less than 45 percent of their anticipated revenue.

Chitungwiza was forced to borrow US$25 million to rehabilitate sewage treatment works and pay retrenchment packages to laid-off workers.

Chinhoyi Municipality made a similar move borrowing US$5,2 million, US$3 million of it for water rehabilitation and augmentation and US$2,2 million for sewer rehabilitation.

Kadoma borrowed US$6,9 million to buy tippers, a dozer, grader, water bowser, service trucks, a mayoral vehicle and to meet the costs of sewer and water rehabilitation.

Norton Town Council also made an application to Local Government Minister Dr Ignatius Chombo to rehabilitate the water treatment plant.

Some local authorities started parcelling out residential stands to meet the targets they were given by Government in line with the provisions for housing under ZimAsset.

Under the Zim-Asset, Government will provide 250 000 housing units to low-income earners.

Harare will deliver 105 935 housing units and residential stands, Midlands 56 582, Matabeleland North 28 772, Masvingo 20 269, Mashonaland West 23 819, Mashonaland Central 16 700, Bulawayo Urban 15 100, Matabeleland South 12 800 and Mashonaland East 11 776. Mutare started parcelling out stands to home-seekers in Dangamvura and has entered a land development partnership with the Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe, which has since completed developing the land with stands now available.

Kadoma also offered residential stands at Victory and Mushumavale Heights to residents on its waiting list.

Harare is, however, still working on modalities to deliver 105 935 housing units by 2018 in fulfilment of the Government directive. Harare deputy mayor Clr Thomas Muzuva said the proposed 105 000 houses should be distributed equally among housing co-operatives, property developers, financial institutions and council.

Harare’s water and sewer rehabilitation project has progressed well with 70 million litres being added to the supply system and another 100 million litres expected soon.

The rehabilitation of the sewerage system is also on schedule and commendable progress has been noted at the Firle Sewerage Treatment Plant.

The city also commissioned the Coventry Road holding bay in August as part of efforts to decongest the Central Business District. The introduction of the holding bay has shown that with more such facilities the CBD would be safer for motorists and pedestrians.

A shuttle bus service has also been introduced thus increasing comfort, reliability, convenience and affordable transport for workers and shoppers.

On the health front, the Edith Opperman Polyclinic in Mbare is undergoing expansion and renovation. The clinic will soon be solar powered, meaning that delivering mothers will no longer rely on candles in the absence of electricity.

The Mabvuku Polyclinic is also undergoing expansion and will be offering caesarian operations among other aanced services.

The Kuwadzana Satellite Clinic was opened early in the year.

A bigger and newer pharmacy is under construction at the Beatrice Infectious Diseases Hospital. The facility will be able to house medicines for all the city’s health centres and those for surrounding provinces.

Source : The Herald