BY HARRIET CHIKANDIWA/PRIDE MZARABANI
AUDITOR-General Mildred Chiri has lamented lack of transparency and accountability in local authorities, where millions of dollars could have been lost to mismanagement of funds, assets and shady land deals.
In her 2020 report on local authorities which was recently tabled before Parliament, Chiri said 42% of governance issues noted in different local authorities emanated from the absence of key policies, and non-compliance with regulations.
Chiri revealed that the Harare City Council failed to account for over US$1 million in land sales.
In 2020, the council suspended its human resources director Matthew Marara and 13 other employees on allegations that they prejudiced council of US$1,1 million in shady land deals in Harare’s Kuwadzana suburb.
“Inventories for developed land for resale and treated water should be treated as inventory, respectively. The inventory records for the land and water were non-existent. There was neither presentation nor disclosure to this effect. No land bank records are kept by the council, which forms the basis for internal control regarding land sales,” the AG report read.
“According to the council, trade and other payables to the tune of US$105 542 322 were unverifiable. In addition, trade and other payables totalling US$83 712 713 had debit balances and should have been reclassified. This suggests that the council might have prepaid or overpaid suppliers and has to recover the same,” Chiri said.
Harare spokesperson Michael Chideme told NewsDay that the council was still studying the report by the AG and would share their response to the issues raised afterwards.
Chegutu Municipality was said to have failed to provide disaggregated values of its investment properties worth $41 347 871, while council could not reconcile its salaries bank account by
$1 622 816.
“Despite owning 100% shares of Pungwe Breweries, Mutare City has not been preparing consolidated financial statements,” Chiri said.
“Gweru City Council was involved in un-procedural allocation of stands to two minors.
“In 2018, Gokwe Town Council allocated a commercial stand measuring 8 750m2 to the council chairperson without following due processes.”
Nyanga Rural District Council (RDC) was said to have failed to provide supporting documents for US$526 500 received as deposit for stands in 2018.
“Masvingo City Council purchased five hundred and forty-five (545) drums of bitumen valued at US$137 713 in 2016 but they were not delivered,” Chiri said.
Tsholotsho RDC is said to have failed to provide road fund acquittals amounting to US$172 378, while Redcliff Municipality purchased two pre-owned vehicles in 2019 without approval and they had not been transferred to council a year later.
About 51% of water meters in Chitungwiza Municipality were said to be dysfunctional.
Harare Residents Trust director Precious Shumba said after the revelations by the AG, council managers needed to be fired while those found to be corrupt should be prosecuted.
“The AG has been making very strong recommendations on how to enhance transparency and accountability in the City of Harare and other local authorities. To end the rot all managers should be removed from their positions,” he said.