Vusumuzi Dube, Online News Editor
THIEVES have started targeting solar panels installed at Bulawayo City Council-owned clinics with four having been affected, a move which has seen the local authority having to increase security at the health centres.
According to a council confidential report, there was an increase in the theft of solar panels and it was affecting the city’s health delivery services.
“Council’s internal audit team noted that four of the clinics, namely; Njube, Pumula, Pelandaba and Mzilikazi have already been affected by thefts of the installed solar panels. The worst affected being Njube Clinic which lost 10 panels. Failure to effectively secure the donated assets may tarnish the image of the city and may not go down well with the donor and affect future support for the city,” reads the report.
The audit team further noted that the solar panels were mounted on the ground with the health facilities, lacking secure protection measures thus exposing them to risk of theft and vandalism.
“To protect the valuable donated assets, health services management should urgently engage the procurement management unit and financial services management to fund the installation of palisade fencing and security lighting in a phased approach, starting with those clinics whose panels are much more vulnerable to theft and vandalism.
The acting chief internal auditor mentioned that on liaising with the Health Services Department their response was that requisitions were raised for erection of palisade fencing around the panel sites but there were funding challenges,” reads the report.
In debating the issue, councillors questioned the theft of the panels while the health facilities were under 24-hour guard.
“Councillor Rodney Jele highlighted that neglecting donated items is detrimental to future engagements with the donor community, he wanted to know how the theft was possible considering that the healthcare facilities were guarded by security.
“He was also eager to know what the chamber secretary’s department (security section) was doing in response to the theft of the solar panels. Clr Febbie Msipa sought to know whether any arrests were made in connection with the stolen solar panels. She also enquired if there is information pertaining to the theft. She indicated that there was a possibility that the guards slept on duty lead to the theft of the panels,” reads the report.
In response to these sentiments the local authority claimed that staff shortages had stretched the security section’s deployment capabilities, which had only improved recently with the recruitment of 100 security guards.
“Some clinics have maternity wards and this compromised the security coverage were only a single guard is deployed. It was hoped that the security deployment would improve after the recruitment,” reads the report.