BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
BULAWAYO City Council (BCC) yesterday made a U-turn and claimed that the local authority had no funds to finance the construction of a mayoral mansion.
This came after they had reportedly initially agreed to set aside US$200 000 to build a mayoral house for Solomon Mguni.
The issue courted controversy as residents complained that the local authority was falling short on the service delivery front.
City fathers have also been accused of corruptly grabbing stands and engaging in rent-seeking behaviour.
In a statement yesterday, councillor Silas Chigora, who is also MDC council chief whip, said council currently had no budget to build a mayoral house. Chigora refuted claims that the local authority had set aside US$200 000 to pay for Mguni’s lodgings.
“Under the item we had three options to take the already existing resolution and renovate a council house at Hornang Park in Burnside at a cost of US$146 000; to purchase a house at a cost of US$200 000 for use by the mayor and future mayors or to build a house at an already reserved stand in Selbourne Park when funds become available,” Chigora said.
“Cognisant of the current financial status of the city we also resolved to pursue the long-standing position of building a mayoral house in Selbourne Park at the already reserved stand when funds become available at a cost yet to be quantified,” he said.
Early this year, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) launched a probe into BCC operations following complaints by residents’ representative groups and other stakeholders over improper allocation of housing stands and flawed tender and procurement processes.
Mguni and council management were quizzed by Zacc.
With regards to Mguni, Bulawayo residents had queried why the mayor was offered a plot in Rangemore for a song.
They also questioned the proposed allocation of a stand to town clerk Christopher Dube, ahead of the renewal of his contract and setting of his new conditions of service.
In a complaint to Zacc last year, the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association raised concern over a trend where council officials were amassing huge tracts of land under questionable circumstances.
Local government experts argue that the fight against graft in the municipality can only be successful if the council audit office was made independent and empowered to investigate council directors, town clerk and management.
At present, internal auditors in local authorities report to their directors and town clerk, effectively taking away their independence and power to investigate council management and councillors.