BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
LEGAL think tank Veritas says the water crisis affecting communities has worsened amid the COVID-19 pandemic due to failure by local authorities to prudently use funds towards service delivery.
In its latest Bill Watch publication on the Auditor-General (AG) Mildred Chiri’s 2019 report on local authorities, Veritas said local authorities were spending money on non-essential items at the expense of availing safe water to residents.
Chiri’s report on local authorities stated that lack of infrastructure maintenance resulted in local authorities losing safe drinking water through leakages.
It also said local authorities were failing to supply adequate water to residents despite ratepayers paying for the service.
“Altogether the picture presented by the report is a distressing one of pervasive ineptitude, incompetence and corruption. Most local authorities had not submitted their financial statements by the time the AG conducted her audit, and of those that did submit them most were late in doing so.
“Normal procedures for recording income and expenditure were not followed; with the result that revenue which should have been expended for the benefit of ratepayers and communities was lost or frittered away on irrelevancies.”
In her report, Chiri noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had affected the management of public entities, including local authorities, and was likely to undermine accountability and transparency.
But Veritas said failure by local authorities to account for public funds had impacted service delivery, resulting in residents failing to access safe drinking water.
“Service delivery suffered, particularly the delivery of water, and councillors seem not to have cared that their success or failure in office would be judged by the delivery of basic services. To keep their communities short of water was particularly reprehensible, and has become even more so during the COVID-19 pandemic.”