via Unaccountability spurs resource mismanagement: Think-tank June 24, 2014 by Philip Chidavaenzi
A LOCAL think tank, Poverty Reduction Forum Trust (PRFT), has blamed the absence of public accountability systems for the sharp increase in cases of mismanagement of resources at public institutions, especially local authorities.
In a report accompanying its Basic Needs Basket for the month of May, the think-tank expressed concern that cases of corruption had shot up at a time service delivery had taken a nosedive.
“At the time when the economy is shrinking with most people struggling to pay their bills, city councils have been involved in corruption scandals and mismanagement of public resources,” PRFT director Judith Kaulem said.
Kaulem said the recent case where Harare City Council diverted $2 million from the $144 million Chinese loan fund for rehabilitation of the city’s water infrastructure and splurged on luxury vehicles for council executives indicated a brazen disregard of lack of public accountability ethos.
She said at a time when the City Fathers were dipping their fingers in the public coffers, “residents have continued to experience erratic supply of water in their suburbs” and laid the blame on the absence of strong transparency and accountability systems in local authorities and public institutions.
Kaulem said social accountability demanded that citizens be accorded their right to question decisions that affected them and office bearers have to respond efficiently.
Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo recently defended council’s decision to buy luxury vehicles using money meant to improve service delivery, saying council executives were entitled to luxury vehicles as they were key players in the project.
Government has, however, said it would soon amend the Public Finance Management Act or introduce a new piece of legislation in line with Section 308 of the new Constitution to whip into line overspending permanent secretaries and heads of parastatals.
Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs deputy minister Fortune Chasi has indicated that such spendthrifts, including those who diverted money allocated to their ministries and entities, would pay back from their pockets.
“The Constitution now requires that after disciplining and punishing government officials and those in charge of State-owned companies for the loss, the next step is recovering of funds or property which in this case means the officials will pay from their pockets,” Chasi said.