Home » Literacy » Zimbabwe: Harare City Council Workers Siphon U.S $70 000

HARARE City Council (HCC) employees took advantage of an opaque procurement system to siphon about US$70 000 in just two weeks through a sweetheart deal involving the purchase of 52 000 litres of fuel.

An audit released by council's audit committee last month, revealed that certain municipal workers in the procurement department feasted on council revenue at a time the local authority is struggling to meet its service delivery obligations.

According to the report, 52 000 litres of petrol valued at US$70 400 were purchased from Raven Court Fuels for Highfield water-works depot, but the consignment never reached its destination.

This has courted the ire of residents who feel that council officials continue to siphon ratepayers' money through fraudulent activities.

Harare Residents Trust (HRT) director, Precious Shumba, said council was being run by corrupt and unethical managers.

"The HRT continues to investigate how the City of Harare has failed to move forward despite having some of the most experienced and educated employees," said Shumba.

"It is always a puzzle how the city is unable to progress when it raises a lot of revenue from its diverse sources. Can 52 000 litres (of petrol) worth US$70 400 just disappear and no one is punished for it, even after an internal audit has exposed the whole scam?"

The Financial Gazette can report that upon being presented with the audit report, council opened disciplinary proceedings against those implicated, with the option for legal action being considered.

Indications are that some of the implicated employees might have resigned.

The audit also unearthed laxities in internal controls after revenue leakages were identified in the issuing of business licenses and commuter omnibus rank discs by council officials.

During a meeting in June, HCC's audit manager reported that revenue from business licensing dropped by 17 percent from US$7 million in 2014 to US$5,8 million last year. Contributing to this plunge in revenue was the issuance of fake business licenses and commuter omnibus rank discs.

Also lack of proper enforcement measures on licensing businesses operating in the city has resulted in revenue leakages that are costing council.

The committee noted with concern how some heads of departments are ignoring audit recommendations thereby fuelling fraudulent activities.

"The chairperson then clarified that the audit committee was council's risk management arm. Its recommendations should thus be implemented timeously to curb revenue leakages," reads part of the minutes of a finance and development committee meeting held recently.

According to the minutes, dated June 23, 2016, an aggregated income and expenditure summary reflected a surplus of US$39,3 million.

Despite raking in such amounts, service delivery remains poor and workers are receiving their salaries late.

Last year, there was a huge uproar when city bosses reportedly diverted part of a loan sourced to finance projects related to water works to purchase personal, luxury vehicles.

Harare officials have also been accused of paying themselves obscene salaries at a time when service delivery is poor and ordinary workers are not getting their salaries on time.

HCC is not the only local authority reeling from corrupt and fraudulent activities.

A government probe into the affairs of Mutare council, in January this year, exposed that the eastern city could have lost over US$3 million in revenue through fraudulent activities.

The probe also showed that the council's bank accounts were overdrawn by US$2 million, but it was not clear what the money was used for.

Council employees in Mutare have gone for over two years without salaries, but senior officials have been claiming thousands of dollars in allowances over the same period.

In Chitungwiza, some councillors were fingered in a land scam whereby they allocated to themselves and their cronies undeveloped council stands.

Source: Financial Gazette.