Local authorities have been advised not to allow those under investigation for corruption-related cases involving land to come to work, as this allows them opportunities to cover their footprints, Secretary for Local Government and Public Works Mr Zvinechimwe Churu has said.
His remarks come as the MDC-led Harare and Chitungwiza councils have allegedly been trying to reinstate suspended top officials.
The Herald understands that Harare recently reinstated town clerk Engineer Hosiah Chisango and human capital director Mr Cainos Chingombe, while Chitungwiza housing director Ms Hazel Sithole, Engineer David Duma and housing manager Alex Mukweva, are alleged to be back at work as well.
In a statement on Thursday, Mr Churu said the Ministry was concerned that councillors and senior managers at local authorities who are under investigation are allowed to return to work when they get bail.
“The Ministry of Local Government and Public Works has noted with great concern that several councillors and senior management of local authorities across Zimbabwe have appeared before the courts of law for corruption and council land mismanagement crimes.
Those under investigation can harass witnesses and cover their tracks once they get bail, by passing resolutions.
Mr Churu said while the court’s bail conditions may not restrict them from going back to work and resuming their normal duties, the conditions indicate that they should not interfere with witnesses, intimidate workers or suspend witness or potential witnesses. So going back to work to resume normal duties would generally infringe the bail conditions.
“The ministry has further noted a growing trend across local authorities that councillors are passing resolutions and making structural changes that would ultimately influence ongoing investigations in favour of those facing criminal charges,” said Mr Churu.
He said anyone who interferes with ongoing investigations will face the full wrath of the law.
“The Ministry of Local Government and Public Works therefore appeals to all local authorities to exercise good corporate governance and ethical conduct by not reinstating individuals who are in the midst of on-going investigations and criminal cases,” said Mr Churu.
The reinstatement risks undermining Vision 2030 of an upper middle income economy envisaged by President Mnangagwa, when there will be zero tolerance to corruption.
“We would like to underscore that attainment of Vision 2030 requires well administered local authorities whose focus is on excellence in service delivery. This cannot be attained unless local authorities adopt high standards of governance with zero tolerance on corruption. This is more so considering that local authorities’ revenues are public funds derived from rate payers as well as from central Government.
“Government therefore is duty-bound to ensure that these resources are professionally administered in the public interest, while it continues to assist local authorities with funding and technical resources to improve service delivery,” he said.
President Mnangagwa is determined to eliminate corruption across all facets of the economy, and many high profile people have been dragged to courts over graft.
A number of top managers in councils are facing various charges in courts.
City of Harare has the highest number of officials in courts, with mayor Jacob Mafume presently suspended over abuse of office allegations.
He was arrested just over a month after taking over from former mayor Herbert Gomba, who also has a case to answer in the courts.