Growing staff costs dominate Harare’s 2019 budget 

Source: Growing staff costs dominate Harare’s 2019 budget | The Herald December 18, 2018

Growing staff costs dominate Harare’s 2019 budget

Rumbidzai Ngwenya and Angeline Musakwa Features Writers
The City of Harare’s 2019 budget has elicited mixed feelings from various stakeholders and residents.

Although a few have welcomed the council’s budget with open arms, saying it attempts to address the problems facing the city today, most residents and stakeholders argue it is yet another case of misplaced priorities.

One of the allocations that raised eyebrows is for salaries and allowances. In its total budget of $472 248 300, the council allocated $141 million to salaries and allowances, that is $11,7 million going to salaries and allowances every month in 2019. Even from the $145 million that the council collected from 1 January to 30 September 2018, $83 million went to salaries and allowances, that is $9,2 million per month, and only $62 million went to service delivery.

The council has increased its expenditure on salaries and allowances from $9,2 million to $11,7 million, sparking angry reactions from residents.

In 2015, the Government set a 70:30 percent threshold for service delivery and employment costs respectively.

Despite this, most council are still not compliant.

“The council needs to understand that its mandate is not to employ people but to deliver service. We have a council that spends more on employing people who are not even providing the services they are said to be employed for,” said Gerald Mhandu of Tynwald.

“What does that mean? We don’t have water, refuse collection service is poor and we don’t have any roads to talk about in suburbs and the council allocates huge amounts to salaries. The council just lacks seriousness,” he said.

Another resident from Mbare said the $141 million allocated to salaries and allowances was a sign of how corrupt council officials were.

He said high ranking council officials’ salaries needed to be slashed and more money allocated to service delivery.

“Council cannot justify spending more on salaries and allowances by saying part of their salary bill is also service delivery.

“Most of its workers are going for months without getting their salaries. It is those in the high offices who are living large at the expense of ratepayers’ money, they should not take us for fools. We want improvement on service delivery not the quality of life of the council executives,” lamented another resident who refused to be named.

“With the poor state of our roads, the council cannot allocate a mere $8,3 million to roads projects and $141 million to their salaries, that doesn’t make any sense. So when all this money is spent on salaries what are they going to work with to ensure roads are rehabilitated? It simply means our lives are less important than theirs.”

Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) also blasted the city council’s budget statement.

CHRA executive director Mfundo Mlilo called the budget ‘unrealistic’ considering the prevailing economic situation in the country.

“City of Harare has been collecting not more than US$200 million every year for the past five years. It then doesn’t make sense when they present a budget statement that is more than 100 percent of what they have collected,” he said.

“This is an unrealistic projection considering the economic situation and everything they are saying becomes unrealistic as well. How did they project that much?”

He also said the allocation of more money to salaries and allowances was a sign of corruption by the city fathers.

“The idea to say $145m will go to salaries is just corruption to benefit the executive because some workers in the council go for months without pay.

“A budget is something that should be realistic and well thought of rather than a corrupt way to get Governments approval,” he said.

Mlilo also criticised the council’s idea of hiking tariffs saying it will create more payment defaults by struggling and under serviced ratepayers.

“Now the council has increased user fees without realising that it also mean an increase in defaulting by rate payers,” he said.

He urged the city fathers to be transparent when it comes to budget projection.

“The Council should produce a budget not just a statement like they have been doing for the past five years so that people will know the economic thinking behind everything. They should also produce a consultation report from the consultation they are said to have made so that it does not seem like someone just came up with the figures,” Mlilo said.

Although Community Water Alliance (CWA) applauded the improvement of allocation to water and sanitation which is $51 856 200, about 11 percent percent of the total budget, it still feels there are plenty of issues to be ironed to improve water and sanitation services.

“We highly recommend City of Harare for presenting a water budget. The allocation is a pointer to both progressive realisation and fulfilment of the human right to water enshrined in Section 77(a) of Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 20) 2013,” said national chairperson, Hildaberta Rwambiwa.

“However there are issues that need to be improved in the budget such as council budget allocation of $4,5m on pre-paid water meters. City of Harare should first present a report on the pre-paid water meters pilot project before discussions on the issue. Our position as Community Water Alliance remains un-changed and we still maintain that pre-paid water meters on domestic premises are not the solution to water challenges.”

CWA backed CHRA on the need of transparency in budget projections while also criticising the idea of hiking tariffs.

“We expect City of Harare to comply with Section 288(2)(a) of the Urban Councils Act, which obliges council to avail copies of budget estimates for public inspection,” she said.

“Whilst we also appreciate the high costs on water purification and the tumbling bond note, we believe there are other methods to address the issue unlike the increase of water price from 0,25c per cubic meter in 2017, to 0,40c per cubic meter in 2018, to the newly announced 0,70c per cubic meter in 2019.”

In the budget, $51 856 200 was allocated to water and sanitation and hygiene programme, $8.5 million to roads programme, $13 711 900 to public safety and security services, $9 941 900 to social services, $31 032 300 to governance and administration programme and $141 million to salaries and allowances.